Author: Marianne Freiberger

In the first article of this series we introduced Schrödinger's equation and in the second we saw it in action using a simple example. But how should we interpret its solution, the wave function? What does it tell us about the physical world?

The eyes of the world will be on London tonight as the opening ceremony will mark the start of the London 2012 Olympic Games. The ceremony will feature the largest harmonically tuned bell in Europe, there'll be NHS dancers, the Queen will be there too of course, and the grand finale will be the Olympic torch lighting the cauldron. While London has been gearing up for these momentous events, we here at Plus have been busy too.

The Plus team's vehicle of choice is the bicycle, so we're particularly pleased about an announcement that hit the news this month: a clever car mirror that eliminates the dreaded blind spot has been given a patent in the US. The mirror was designed by the mathematician Andrew Hicks, of Drexel University, after years of puzzling over the problem.

Why are we so clever? In evolutionary terms this isn't obvious: evolution tends to favour cheap solutions and the human brain is expensive. It consumes about 20% of our body's energy budget yet it only makes up 2% of our body mass. So why did it make evolutionary sense for us humans to develop powerful brains? Game theory provides a possible answer.

The holy grail for 21st century physics is to produce a unified theory of everything that can describe the world at every level, from the tiniest particles to the largest galaxies. Currently the strongest contender for such a theory is something called M-theory. So what is this supposed mother of all theories all about?

This year's Abel Prize goes to Endre Szemerédi for his "fundamental contributions to discrete mathematics and theoretical computer science."
Data, data, data — 21st century life provides tons of it. It's paradise for researchers, or at least it would be if we knew how to make sense of it all. This year's AAAS annual meeting in Vancouver devoted plenty of time to the question of how to understand large amounts of data. And there's one method we particularly liked. It's based on the kind of idea that gave us the London tube map.

Africa isn't a continent that's famous for cutting edge research. But at the University of Stellenbosch, 50km East of Cape Town, South Africa, Kiran Dellimore and his team are engineering medical equipment that will save the lives of people all over the world. Latest projects include replacement heart valves made from kangaroo tissue and equipment to help resuscitate people in emergencies.

How many people died? It's one of the first questions asked in a war or violent conflict, but it's one of the hardest to answer. In the chaos of war many deaths go unrecorded and all sides have an interest in distorting the figures. The best we can do is come up with estimates, but the trouble is that different statistical methods for doing this can produce vastly different results . So how do we know how different methods compare?

Plants are amazingly good at something that is still flummoxing us humans in our quest for sustainable energy sources: turning sunlight into energy in an efficient way. Around 100 bilions tons of biomass are produced annually through photosynthesis. The question is, how exacty do plants do it?