News from the world of Maths

December 1, 2000

Some birds, including sparrows and herring gulls, lay their eggs so that the last one to come out is a shade or two lighter than the others. You might suppose that laying eggs requires some effort and that the colour of the last egg is a sign of an exhausted mother. But this practice might be of evolutionary advantage.

August 31, 2000

Scientists at the NEC Research Institute in Princeton have carried out an experiment in which a pulse of light appeared to emerge from a cloud of gas before it even entered.

August 31, 2000

Earlier this year, a group of scientists at Bell Labs announced that they had succeeded in observing the effects of "dark matter" - invisible matter that can be detected only by its gravitational effects.

August 31, 2000

More than a century ago, an American astronomer named Seth Carlo Chandler discovered that, as the earth spun on its axis, it also wobbled. This wobble, now known as the Chandler wobble in honour of its discoverer, didn't disappear over time, as would have been expected if no further force reactivated it. The source of the continuing activating force has remained a mystery ever since - until now.

August 31, 2000

Four mathematicians have finally confirmed that the familiar double soap bubble is indeed the best way to enclose two separate volumes of air.

August 31, 2000

The Millennium Bridge across the Thames opened in June 2000 and was subsequently closed two days later because of the now-famous "wobbles". Given that, at any instant, two thousand people were suspended above a very dangerous river, this presented a serious problem.

May 31, 2000

Have you ever noticed what happens when you spin a coin on a table? As the coin starts to fall over and roll on its edge, its spin gets faster and faster until it suddenly stops altogether.

May 31, 2000

More than a century after the death of its inventor, the world's first computer printer has finally been constructed at the Science Museum in London.