Author: Helen Joyce

"Dicing with Death" is a rarity: a book about statistics for the general public. Popular maths books are no longer uncommon, popular books on the physical sciences became a publishing phenomenon with Stephen Hawking, but popular statistics books are few and far between. Perhaps this fact is related to the poor public image of statistics, although it is difficult to say which is cause and which effect.
In this issue we talk to maths student Emily Dixon about her university studies, and where maths might take her in the future.
A new project hopes to reduce the experimental error in science teaching.
The Royal Statistical Society is calling for more effective performance monitoring.
The 2003 Dirac Lecturer, distinguished physicist Freeman Dyson, tells Plus why he is an optimist, what makes life interesting and why old-fashioned maths is what you need for physics.
Wen Quek works for an award-winning architectural cooperative based in London. Recently, she worked on the new library at the University of Cambridge's Centre for Mathematical Sciences. As she tells Plus, Wen sees many parallels between mathematics and architecture.
If you had a crystal ball that allowed you to see your future, what would you arrange differently about your finances? Plus talks to the Government Actuary, Chris Daykin about the pensions crisis, and how actuaries use statistical and modelling techniques to plan for all our futures.
George Szpiro has a most unusual day job for someone writing about the abstract world of pure mathematics. Although he first studied maths at university, he has been a political journalist now for a number of years, working as Israel correspondent for NZZ, a Swiss daily. He wrote this book at night, after the paper's deadline, and as it was being finished lost one of his closest friends in a suicide bombing. The contrast between sphere packings in three dimensions and his daytime subject material must often have struck him.
Geometric dissection is the mathematical art of cutting figures into pieces that can be rearranged to form other figures, preferably using as few pieces as possible. You may already have come across puzzles such as the Aviary Tangram, the pieces of which can be used to form an egg, a chicken and many other shapes; but the ingenuity of the dissections shown here may still be a revelation to you, as they were to this reviewer.
The Four Colour Theorem - the statement that four colours suffice to fill in any map so that neighbouring countries are always coloured differently - has had a long and controversial history. It was first conjectured 150 years ago, and finally (and infamously) proved in 1976 with much of the work done by a computer. The published proof relied on checking 1432 special cases, which took more than 1,000 hours of computer time.