The human brain faces a difficult trade-off. On the one hand it needs to be complex to ensure high performance, and on the other it needs to minimise "wiring cost" — the sum of the length of all the connections — because communication over distance takes a lot of energy. It's a problem well-known to computer scientists. And it seems that market driven human invention and natural selection have come up with similar solutions.

This article is part of a series of two articles exploring two ways in which mathematics comes into food, and especially into food safety and health. In this article we will take a dive into the rather smelly business of digesting food, and how a crazy application of chaos theory shows the best way to digest a medicinal drug.

Helen Joyce is a former editor of Plus magazine who now works as a journalist for The Economist. In August she's off to Brazil to be the paper's Brazil Bureau Chief. In between packing and learning Portuguese she has found time to tell Plus all about her varied career and the role maths has played in it.

Fractals are a treat for your eyes, but what about your ears? Dmitry Kormann, a composer/keyboardist from São Paulo, Brazil, explains how he integrates fractal-like patterns in the very structure of his music, to obtain beautiful results.

A new 3D version of the Mandelbrot set
Using sand to create new mathematical models
Fractal Modelling of Pollock paintings called into question
If you've ever redecorated a bathroom, you'll know that there are only so many ways in which you can tile a flat plane. But once you move into the curved world of hyperbolic geometry, possibilities become endless and the most amazing fractal structures ensue. Caroline Series and David Wright give a short introduction to the maths behind their beautiful images.
You've probably seen pictures of the famed Mandelbrot set and its mysterious cousins, the Julia sets. In this article Robert L. Devaney explores the maths behind these beauties and shows that they're loaded with mathematical meaning.
Mathematicians and artists mingle in London
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