Issue 41

December 2006
In this issue we present the winners of the Plus New Writers Award 2006, the writing competition we set up to find the Plus authors of the future. After a painful process of weighing-up our judges have chosen six winning articles from the many high-quality entries. So sit back and read all about the maths of gambling, the longest theorem in history, the mathematical genius David Hilbert, the phenomenon of the lightning calculator, lies and statistics, and some shadow maths.
Winner of the schools category. Dice are invaluable to many games, especially gambling games, but instead of playing with ordinary 1-6 numbered dice here are two interesting alternatives - with a twist!
Runner up in the schools category. Dusty books, chalky blackboards and checked shirts are all things usually associated with maths. But according to Jonathan Tims, pubs, hot chocolate and cats can be far more inspirational. Join him on a trip through shadow land.
Runner up in the schools category Being good at mental arithmetic isn't going to gain you much street cred these days. But, as Owen Daniel explains, not so long ago it was a sure route to fame and fortune — even if you were a horse.
Winner of the general public category. Enormous is the right word: this theorem's proof spans over 10,000 pages in 500 journal articles and no-one today understands all its details. So what does the theorem say? Richard Elwes has a short and sweet introduction.
Runner up in the general public category. "Lies, damned lies, and statistics..." Ben Parker tells us how to tell good statistics from bad, and make sure your cat is well-fed.
Runner up in the general public category. Great minds spark controversy. This is something you'd expect to hear about a great philosopher or artist, but not about a mathematician. Get ready to bin your stereotypes as Rebecca Morris describes some controversial ideas of the great mathematician David Hilbert.
Outer space: How to beat that photocopier

The Plus New Writers Award 2006: the competition issue

From Einstein to water power, Plus author Anita King explains where maths has got her.
Open your very own can of worms
At the earliest age, children around the world ask questions about the nature of existence and how we came to be here. Simon Singh's third and most ambitious work of popular science takes us on a journey through the ages, as man's sense of his own importance in the universe shrank ever smaller and his idea of time stretched from a few thousand to around fifteen billion years.
With this collection of letters Ian Stewart, accomplished mathematician, science writer, and even science fiction writer, accompanies a young and imaginary student on her path to becoming a professional mathematician. The letters address the questions that arise naturally at the crucial points in "Meg's" career, from leaving school and pondering whether to take a maths degree, through to becoming a fully established mathematician wondering how to juggle teaching and research.
'This book starts with the story of Larry Walters, who decided to try flying a garden chair with some fifty helium weather balloons attached. Larry didn't do the maths, and ended up at 16,000 feet! Michael de Smith has written a book for all the Larrys who need or ought to do some mathematical analysis of a problem before setting out.