Issue 3

September 1997

Believe it or not, finding a partner and eating out are all mathematical issues. In this issue we introduce decoding and dynamic programming as great ways of tackling the problems backwards.

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The Fibonacci sequence – 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, ... – is one of the most famous pieces of mathematics. We see how these numbers appear in multiplying rabbits and bees, in the turns of sea shells and sunflower seeds, and how it all stemmed from a simple example in one of the most important books in Western mathematics.
How do you choose a partner? Is it an irrational choice or is it made rationally, based on a mathematical model which analyses the best potential partner you are likely to meet?
The previous feature, "Mathematics, marriage and finding somewhere to eat" investigated the problem of finding the best potential partner from a fixed number of potential partners using a technique known as "optimal stopping". Inevitably, mathematicians and mathematical psychologists have constructed other models of the problem...
An account of how a prisoner of war's diary was recently decoded. Donald Hill wrote his diary in a numerical code, disguised as a set of mathematical tables, while in Hong Kong during and after the Japanese invasion of 1941.
Space probes, like NASA's recent Pathfinder mission to Mars, have radio transmitters of only a few watts, but have to transmit pictures and scientific data across hundreds of millions of miles without the information being completely swamped by noise. Read about how coding theory helps.

Sir Walter Raleigh is perhaps best known for laying down his cloak in the mud for Queen Elizabeth I. But, he also started a mathematical quest which to this day remains unsolved.

  • The Dearing report
  • Network capacity problem
  • References
Read about what it is like to work at the Meteorological Office in this interview with Helen Hewson. There's also a contact point for careers information.
Never forget your mum's birthday