Issue 47

June 2008

This is the biggest ever issue of Plus. We proudly present the winners of the Plus new writers award who explore, amongst other things, the mysteries of infinity, flight, love and Google. We also investigate the maths of tomography, catch some primes, and have a look at maths in the movies. Plus there's a choice of reviews and podcasts, as well as all the regular features of Plus.

Also in this issue...

In the movies mathematicians are mostly mad. Since here at Plus we firmly believe in our sanity, we're puzzled as to why. So we charged Charlotte Mulcare with the unenviable task of sifting through five well-known maths movies and speculate towards an answer.
What's the nature of infinity? Are all infinities the same? And what happens if you've got infinitely many infinities? In this article Richard Elwes explores how these questions brought triumph to one man and ruin to another, ventures to the limits of mathematics and finds that, with infinity, you're spoilt for choice.
Richard Elwes continues his investigation into Cantor and Cohen's work. He investigates the continuum hypothesis, the question that caused Cantor so much grief.
The primes are the building blocks of our number system, but there's no general formula that will give you all of them. If you want them, you have to hunt them down one by one. Abigail Kirk investigates a method that does just that.
Not so long ago, if you had a medical complaint, doctors had to open you up to see what it was. These days they have a range of sophisticated imaging techniques at their disposal, saving you the risk and pain of an operation. Chris Budd and Cathryn Mitchell look at the maths that isn't only responsible for these medical techniques, but also for much of the digital revolution.
When the famous diagram fails
  • I need maths like a carburettor recalibration
  • The 118 188 challenge

You meet an old friend on holiday, you find your colleague shares your birthday, you win the lottery. Exactly how rare are these rare events? David Spiegelhalter investigates in his regular column on uncertainty and risk.

Exhibition design is not a career that the mathematically inclined tend to think about, let alone pursue. Barry Phipps is the first interdisciplinary fellow with the Kettle's Yard gallery in Cambridge. His remit is to develop projects of an interdisciplinary nature — "to find the common ground between things." Whilst most people think that art and science are two completely separate non-overlapping areas of human endeavour, Phipps does not see it this way.
This issue's teacher package brings together all Plus articles on vectors and matrices, exploring anything from the maths of computer movies to climate change. It also has some handy links to related problems on our sister site NRICH.
Tiling troubles
In their new book John Bryant and Chris Sangwin explore the complex problems and challenges facing engineers and mathematicians now and through the ages.
"Marvellous, surprising, crystal-clear, amazing, stimulating, delightful, fascinating" — this is how our reviewer described Nonplussed!, a book published last year by by the same author.
Ever wondered what mathematicians do all day? Finding Moonshine tells the story of a year in the life of the author, an Oxford professor known for his books, as well as radio and TV presentations of mathematics to the general public.
How do you do it? Horizontally from side to side, or perhaps criss-cross, producing a series of Xs running up your feet? Towards the end of The shoelace book, its author Burkard Polster raises a troubling question. Despite all the here-today, gone-tomorrow vagaries of fashion, and in spite of the huge variety of shoe styles available to us in this golden age of footwear, why does almost everyone lace their shoes in one of these two ways?
It turns out your mum was wrong after all: you can judge a book by its cover. This book has a colourful, detailed, and tantalising cover adorned with portraits of people you may or may not know. Who are they, and what do they have to do with numbers at work, and the culture in which we live?