Issue 19

March 2002

Is forensic evidence always reliable? Are we all born with a basic understanding of mathematics? And why have humans evolved to show kindness when it does not always benefit them? This issue reveals all this and more.

One of the most puzzling aspects of human behaviour is cooperation, in situations where backstabbing and selfishness would seem to be more rewarding. From the point of view of evolutionary theory, the very existence of altruism and cooperation appear mysterious.

Neuropsychologist Brian Butterworth tells us about research showing that even newborn babies have a basic understanding of number. It seems we are all mathematicians!
Chemists John Watling and Allen Thomas talk to Plus about the vital role of maths in presenting criminal evidence.
Infinite series occupy a central and important place in mathematics. C. J. Sangwin shows us how eighteenth-century mathematician Leonhard Euler solved one of the foremost infinite series problems of his day.
Paulus Gerdes takes us on a tour of the mathematical properties of some beautiful designs inspired by the traditional art of Angolan tribespeople.
John Henstridge and Jodie Thompson tell Plus about life as consultant statisticians, modelling real-world problems in areas as diverse as the shipping industry and water rationing.
Try your hand at some tricky trig!
A Beautiful Mind is a touching, emotionally charged film detailing the life of a brilliant academic who suffers from schizophrenia. This affliction slowly takes over his mind and we watch as his life crumbles apart around him.
"I am certain, absolutely certain that...these theories will be recognized as fundamental at some point in the future." Sophus Lie said these words more than hundred years ago. We know now that he was right, absolutely right. The notions of "Lie groups" and "Lie algebras" are in the vocabulary of every mathematician and physicist today. Lie's theories are indispensable tools for understanding the physical laws of Nature.
Over the last decade, the discipline of neuropsychology has shed light on many aspects of human thought. Brain scans, carefully structured behavioural experiments, and the study of individuals who have suffered brain damage, have taught us much about which abilities are native to humans and which learned; which abilities can be lost and what happens when they are.
Ever since Watson and Crick worked out the double helix structure of DNA in 1953, the role of genetics in biology has grown and grown. Genetic determinism - the belief that we are controlled by our genes and that no other factor is significant - is now all-pervasive.