The shadow of the late Martin Gardner looms large in Manchester this week as the workshop How to talk maths in public, organised by the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications, draws to a close. The question on everyone's mind is "who will fill the enormous hole left by his absence"?
On March 14 2010 a mathematician and a magician teamed up to perform what they believed to be the world's largest live magic trick. The trick involved a thousand volunteers from the around the world who, using free choice, each came up with a number that was only known to themselves. And although the volunteer might be on the other side of the globe, the mathematician and the magician were able to read their mind and tell them which number they had chosen.
Magic squares have been known and studied for many centuries, but there are still surprisingly many unanswered questions about them. In an effort to make progress on these unsolved problems, twelve prizes totalling €8,000 and twelve bottles of champagne have now been offered for the solutions to twelve magic square enigmas.
Tonight, in the final televised debate ahead of the election, the three main party leaders will talk about the economy, the recession, public sector debt, spending or cuts, and more. All will use statistics to back up their points or to pull apart their opponents' arguments. But how can we work out whether to believe the figures and what do they really mean?