Issue 9

September 1999

What is the Mandlebrot Set and what are fractals? Why do more numbers in nature start with a 1 than with any other digit? What is Benford's Law? And how were thinkers such as Pythagoras and Newton able to tackle different problems presented to them? This issue explains it all.

For millennia, puzzles and paradoxes have forced mathematicians to continually rethink their ideas of what proofs actually are. Jon Walthoe explains the tricks involved and how great thinkers like Pythagoras, Newton and Gödel tackled the problems.
Almost everyone reading this article has no doubt encountered pictures from the Mandelbrot Set. Their appeal is not limited to the mathematician, and their breathtaking beauty has found its way onto posters, T-shirts and computers everywhere. Yet what is a fractal?
Images based on Lyapunov Exponent fractals are very striking. Andy Burbanks explains what Lyapunov Exponents are, what the much misunderstood phenomenon of chaos really is, and how you can iterate functions to produce marvellous images of chaos from simple mathematics.
You might think that if you collected together a list of naturally-occurring numbers, then as many of them would start with a 1 as with any other digit, but you'd be quite wrong. Jon Walthoe explains why Benford's Law says otherwise, and why tax inspectors are taking an interest.
Eugen Jost is a Swiss artist whose work is strongly influenced by mathematics. He sent us this Postcard from Italy, telling us about his work and the important roles that nature and numbers play in it.

You may have seen Foucault's pendulum. There's one in the Science Museum in London (part of the National Museum of Science and Industry), and there are many more in various locations around the UK (for instance, in Glasgow) and the world (including one at the United Nations Headquarters and a famous example at Le Panthéon in Paris).

  • New in this issue
  • Ever-increasing standards: a problem of communication?
David Spaughton and Anton Merlushkin work for Credit Suisse First Boston, where they provide traders in the hectic dealing room with software based on complicated mathematical models of the financial markets. PASS Maths interviewed them at their offices in Canary Wharf in London.

From September 1999 onwards, PASS Maths is joining forces with its sister site NRICH to offer many more puzzles changed regularly on the 1st of every month.