Articles

Arguably, the exponential function crops up more than any other when using mathematics to describe the physical world. In the first of two articles on physical phenomena which obey exponential laws, Ian Garbett discusses light attenuation - the way in which light decreases in intensity as it passes through a medium.

The idea is this. To start with, you will choose an envelope at random, say by tossing a coin, and look at its contents, which is a cheque for some number - say n. (By randomising like this, you can be sure I haven't subconsciously induced you to prefer one envelope or the other.) You want to make sure that the bigger the number is, the more likely you are to keep it, in other words, the less likely you are to swap.

Why can't human beings walk as fast as they run? And why do we prefer to break into a run rather than walk above a certain speed? Using mathematical modelling, R. McNeill Alexander finds some answers.
Steven J. Brams uses the Cuban missile crisis to illustrate the Theory of Moves, which is not just an abstract mathematical model but one that mirrors the real-life choices, and underlying thinking, of flesh-and-blood decision makers.
Last October, two mathematicians won £1m when it was revealed that they were the first to solve the Eternity jigsaw puzzle. It had taken them six months and a generous helping of mathematical analysis. Mark Wainwright meets the pair and finds out how they did it.
The dangers of trading derivatives have been well-known ever since they were catapulted into the public eye by the spectacular losses of Nick Leeson and Barings Bank. John Dickson explains what derivatives are, and how they can be both risky, and used to reduce risk.