Over the last decade, the discipline of neuropsychology has shed light on many aspects of human thought. Brain scans, carefully structured behavioural experiments, and the study of individuals who have suffered brain damage, have taught us much about which abilities are native to humans and which learned; which abilities can be lost and what happens when they are.
Ever since Watson and Crick worked out the double helix structure of DNA in 1953, the role of genetics in biology has grown and grown. Genetic determinism - the belief that we are controlled by our genes and that no other factor is significant - is now all-pervasive.
Suppose you have an infinitely large sheet of paper (mathematicians refer to this hypothetical object as the plane). You also have a number of different colours - pots of paint, perhaps. Your aim is to colour every point on the plane using the colours available. That is, each point must be assigned one colour.
Adam Smith is often thought of as the father of modern economics. In his book "An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations" Smith decribed the "invisible hand" mechanism by which he felt economic society operated. Modern game theory has much to add to Smith's description.
Chomp is a simple two-dimensional game, played as follows.
Cookies are set out on a rectangular grid. The bottom left cookie is poisoned.
Two players take it in turn to "chomp" - that is, to eat one of the remaining cookies, plus all the cookies above and to the right of that cookie.
"The Language of Mathematics" is a book that sets itself an ambitious task - to sum up all of mathematics. Clearly, the author does not intend to do this without omissions - mathematics is far too large a subject for that - rather, he hopes that the reader will come away with an understanding of what maths is and what mathematicians do and why.
In this book, Martin Gardner, best known for his columns on recreational maths in Scientific American and the many books collecting this material, surveys a wide range of mathematical magic. Many of the tricks described require little or no dexterity and nothing except readily available props, such as cards or dice, and so are suitable for the beginner.
This is the story of Sarah Flannery, who at age 16 won the titles of 1999 Irish Young Scientist of the Year and European Young Scientist of the Year for her innovative work on cryptography. Written by Sarah with her father David, who taught her mathematics from a young age and encouraged her mathematical flights, the book is an engaging mix of mathematical exposition - always clear and rigorous but never dull - and first-person descriptions of the storm that erupted when the world media latched onto her story. Easily written in a friendly style, you could imagine that this is the adventure of someone you know.
Actuaries use mathematics to model the real world, finding business solutions to the perennial problems thrown up by life's uncertainties. Kathy Byrne tells Plus about life as Actuarial Director of an Insurance Company.