Issue 28

January 2004
We play chess, we play music, we even play at vampires. And we continue our series written specially for students, and talk to an old friend of Plus, who is now a maths student at university.
A biologist has developed a blood test for detecting a certain minor abnormality in infants. Obviously if you have blood samples from 100 children, you could find out which children are affected by running 100 separate tests. But mathematicians are never satisfied by the obvious answer. Keith Ball uses information theory to explain how to cut down the number of tests significantly, by pooling samples of blood.
In 1997 Garry Kasparov, then World Champion, lost an entire chess match to the IBM supercomputer Deep Blue, and it is only a matter of time before the machines become absolutely unbeatable. But the human brain, as Lewis Dartnell explains, is still able to put up a good fight by exploiting computers' weaknesses.
Calculus is a collection of tools, such as differentiation and integration, for solving problems in mathematics which involve "rates of change" and "areas". In the second of two articles aimed specially at students meeting calculus for the first time, Chris Sangwin tells us how to move on from first principles to differentiation as we know and love it!
Following on from his article 'The prime number lottery' in last issue of Plus, Marcus du Sautoy continues his exploration of the greatest unsolved problem of mathematics: The Riemann Hypothesis.
The concept of a speed limit seems a simple one - until you think what can happen when a speed camera clocks a rotating wheel...
  • Beaglemania - The Beagle is missing in action, but it is inspiring a new generation of would-be astronauts.
  • Careers with Maths - Plus has been given a grant to produce posters based on our popular careers library.
In this issue we talk to maths student Emily Dixon about her university studies, and where maths might take her in the future.
Can you guess how everyone else has you labelled?
Are you interested in maths just for the fun of it? Or does mathematics seem irrelevant? Either way, this book is for you. Keith Ball is eager to share with his readers the way some of the numbers around us in the world work, and their uses.
John Allen Paulos is the man who popularised the word "innumeracy", meaning the all-too-common condition of ignorance and bewilderment about maths and numbers in general. A light, cheerful and ever-so-slightly smug look at the problem, his best-known book of the same name (reviewed in Issue 11 of Plus) traces the roots of innumeracy to poor teaching and offers suggestions for antidotes and innoculation.
"Dicing with Death" is a rarity: a book about statistics for the general public. Popular maths books are no longer uncommon, popular books on the physical sciences became a publishing phenomenon with Stephen Hawking, but popular statistics books are few and far between. Perhaps this fact is related to the poor public image of statistics, although it is difficult to say which is cause and which effect.