Author: Marianne Freiberger

Why are drug induced hallucinations so compelling that they apparently provided much of the inspiration for early forms of abstract art? Researchers suggest that the answer hinges on an interplay between the mathematics of pattern formation and a mechanism that generates a sense of value and meaning.

Agreeing to pay £50,000 for something worth £2 wouldn't win you any haggling competitions. In mathematics, however, a similar result can bring you international acclaim. This is the case with recent progress towards the famous twin prime conjecture.

An "electric atomosphere" is not what you expect at a maths lecture. But it is what prevailed when Andrew Wiles announced his proof of a 350-year-old-old problem, Fermat's last theorem, exactly 20 years ago.

Alan Turing was a mathematician and WWII code breaker who was convicted of homosexuality in the 1950s, chemically castrated as a result, died young in mysterious circumstances and still hasn't received all the recognition
he deserves. His life clearly makes great material for a play — but a musical? We talk to the directors and lead actor of The Universal Machine.

It's always good to see other people make mistakes, so a book about serious errors committed by some of history's greatest scientists is bound to be a good read. But Mario Livio's new book isn't just about reassuring
ordinary mortals like me, and it's not at all about poking fun at less ordinary ones. It's a thoughtful look at science, the often hap-hazard path of its progress and the limitations of the human mind.

Space is the stage on which physics happens. It's unaffected by what happens in it and it would still be there if everything in it disappeared. This is how we learn to think about space at school. But the idea is as novel as it is out-dated.

This year's Abel Prize has been awarded to the Belgian mathematician Pierre Deligne for "seminal contributions to algebraic geometry and for their transformative impact on number theory, representation theory, and related fields".

Would you stake your fortune on a 100 to 1 outsider? Probably not. But what if, somewhere in a parallel universe, the straggling nag does come in first? Would the pleasure you feel in that universe outweigh the pain you feel in the one in which you've lost? Questions not dissimilar to this one occupy physicists and for entirely respectable reasons.

Are there parallel universes? Universes in which, rather than reading this article, you are still asleep; in which you are happier, unhappier, richer, poorer, or even dead? The answer is "possibly". It's a controversial claim but one that has won more and more followers over the last few decades.

In the previous article we explored how a clever argument involving gambling makes the idea that there are parallel universes more credible. But does it really?