Issue 48

September 2008
How long will you live? How should you write down numbers? Who's your ideal partner? How good is our voting system? And what is a differential equation? These are difficult and momentous questions. This issue of Plus has some answers, along with a tour of digital art and the usual range of podcasts, news and reviews.
Peter Markowich is a mathematician who likes to take pictures. At first his two interests seemed completely separate to him, but then he realised that behind every picture there is a mathematical story to tell. Plus went to see him to find out more, and ended up with a pictorial introduction to partial differential equations.
According to one mathematician, god created the whole numbers, with everything else being the work of humanity. Why, then did god not equip us with a good way of writing them down? Chris Hollings reveals that our number system, much used but rarely praised, is in fact a work of genius and took millennia to evolve.
Computer-generated art is on the rise, and with it comes a further blurring of the boundaries between maths and art. Lewis Dartnell looks at some stunning examples.
Much criticism has been levelled at the US voting system, and with this being election year, we're bound to hear more of it. In this article Steven J. Brams proposes an alternative voting system that could help make things more democratic.
What's your strategy for love? Hold out for The One, or try and avoid the bad ones? How long should you wait before cutting your losses and settling down with whoever comes along next? John Billingham investigates and saves the national grid in the process.
How to keep inflation down

Election issues

Well, no-one knows exactly, but using stats you can make a good guess. This article tells you how and has an interactive life expectancy calculator. Do you dare to find out?

Chuck Gill caught the space bug as a child when watching Alan Shepherd launch into space. Since then he's worked as a US Air Force navigator, a satellite operator, and in the US intelligence service. These days he's busy reducing carbon emissions and preparing London for the 2012 Olympics. Plus went to see him to find out more about his career.
This issue's teacher package brings together all Plus articles on group theory, exploring its applications and recent breakthroughs, and giving explicit definitions and examples of groups. It also has some handy links to related problems on our sister site NRICH.
Do five suffice?
If you were to seek out books that attempt to popularise maths among the innumerati, you would notice that most give a quick nod to the golden ratio.
With Einstein's publication of The Foundation of the General Theory of Relativity in 1916 our view of the nature of the Universe was forever altered.
Charles Lutwidge Dodgson sat in the bows of a rowing boat and heaved on the oars in time with another young man who sat in front of him.
If you ever have been (or wanted to be) involved in a school or office council which has to be elected by popular vote, you have a fair idea of the sort of considerations that have to be made.
We're in a US election year, and as is usual at such times there is some discussion about the fairness of the voting system.
Engineers often consider mathematics a necessary evil rather than a pursuit in itself. The author of An imaginary tale, Paul J. Nahin, is therefore a rare find.