Issue 29

March 2004
Maths and politics clearly do mix, with a House of Commons debate inspiring another article in our series especially aimed at schoolteachers and students, and a new UK government report shaking up mathematics education. We also take a chance on the lottery, John Barrow turns agony aunt and we squeeze the most out of theoretical physics.
Did you know that every instant, gravity waves from outer space are stretching and squeezing you - and everyone and everything else in the universe? Learning more about this mysterious radiation will help us to probe the structure and origins of the universe, explains Anita Barnes.
In the early days of the UK National Lottery, it was quite common to see newspaper articles that looked back on what numbers had recently been drawn, and attempted to identify certain numbers as "due" or "hot". Few such articles appear now, and John Haigh thinks that perhaps the publicity surrounding the lottery has enhanced the nation's numeracy.
It is extraordinary to think that the diversity of the world we live in is based on a handful of elementary particles and a few fundamental forces. Peter Kalmus describes the combination of experimental and theoretical physics that has brought us to the understanding of today.
It isn't often that a mathematical equation makes the national press, far less popular radio, or most astonishingly of all, is the subject of a debate in the UK parliament. However, as Chris Budd and Chris Sangwin tell us, in 2003 the good old quadratic equation, which we all learned about in school, reached these dizzy pinnacles of fame.

Most magazines have endless articles and correspondence about relationships and you will be pleased to hear that Plus is now no different. Why?

  • The Smith report: Making mathematics count
  • Quadratic equations in Parliament!
  • New look for Nrich - Our sister site Nrich unveils its new site design.
Bharat Dodia tells Plus how his love of maths has taken him from turbulent times to building better IT systems for Ford.
Get a tastebuds ready for easter eggs with our chocolate flavoured puzzle!
"Mathematical Apocrypha" is, as its subtitle intimates, a book of stories and anecdotes about mathematicians and the mathematical. However, in contrast with many books about mathematicians, Steven Krantz focuses on contemporary figures such as Wiener, Littlewood and Hardy, and says very little about the usual myths regarding Pythagoras, Descartes or Euler.
"As long as a branch of science offers an abundance of problems", proclaimed David Hilbert, "so is it alive". These words were delivered in the German mathematician's famous speech at the 1900 International Congress of Mathematics. He subsequently went on to describe 23 problems which he believed would spur on mathematical thought for the upcoming century.
Most people think that mathematics consists of either just arithmetic, or a collection of very abstract and technical topics which the layperson has no chance of grasping. But this really is not true: of course many areas are too technical for the non-mathematician, but there are also many beautiful and non-trivial facts which can be expressed in ordinary language for everyone to appreciate.
We live in a world that obeys many physical laws, and that can be modelled by a variety of mathematics. It is surprising what a variety of problems can be described by very similar models. Robert B. Banks does not concentrate on the most common examples of applied mathematics, but instead covers a fascinating selection of topics as varied as the US national debt, the Eiffel Tower, and the flight of golf balls.