Issue 31

September 2004
Everybody likes a nice surprise and this issue of Plus is packed with them. Impress your friends with Indian rope tricks, amazing feats of memory, and find out if high icecream sales really do cause shark attacks.
Why do so many people say they hate mathematics, asks David Acheson? The truth, he says, is that most of them have never been anywhere near it, and that mathematicians could do more to change this perception - perhaps by emphasising the element of surprise that so often accompanies mathematics at its best.
Memory is fundamental to the way we think, and we use it in almost every activity. But most of us cannot imagine approaching the level of world record holder Hiroyuki Goto, who memorised and recited 42,195 digits of pi! Rob Eastaway asks if mere mortals can learn anything useful from such incredible feats of memory, and gives some hints on how to remember numbers.
How much evidence would you need before buying into a get rich quick scheme? Do high ice cream sales cause shark attacks? And just how likely was it that you were ever born? Andrew Stickland finds out that, when it comes to probability, our instincts can lead us seriously astray.
As anyone starting out knows, the violin is a difficult instrument. It takes time before the novice player can expect to produce a musical note at the desired pitch, instead of a whistle, screech or graunch. Jim Woodhouse and Paul Galluzzo explain why.

Two people who get on well together can often find their relationship destabilised by the arrival of a third into their orbit.

  • The permanent revolution - The government's response to Adrian Smith's Inquiry into post 14 mathematics education
  • A-levels - Are the ever-improving results a sign of falling standards?
Jason Winborn specialises in human resource management software Peoplesoft, and has been working freelance as a consultant for four years.
Lose money on a chessboard with our Plus puzzle.
This book from Professor Sir Michael Marmot (knighted for his services to epidemiology and understanding health inequalities) is concerned with a very simple question: why do people of higher status have better health and live longer than those of lower status?
Have you ever wondered how high a flea of the size of a human could jump, why rivers meander or how high a tree can grow? Mathematics in Nature provides answers to all these questions and many more, while introducing the reader to the ideas and methods of mathematical modelling.
In our day-to-day lives we all use, and are in fact dependent on, physics. For example, all of modern (and not so modern!) technology relies on our knowledge of underlying physical principles. However, physics is also one of the most commonly feared sciences, with many people put off by the complex details which have developed alongside the subject's sophistication.