It isn't often that a mathematical equation makes the national press, far less popular radio, or most astonishingly of all, is the subject of a debate in the UK parliament. However, as Chris Budd and Chris Sangwin tell us, in 2003 the good old quadratic equation, which we all learned about in school, reached these dizzy pinnacles of fame.
A biologist has developed a blood test for detecting a certain minor abnormality in infants. Obviously if you have blood samples from 100 children, you could find out which children are affected by running 100 separate tests. But mathematicians are never satisfied by the obvious answer. Keith Ball uses information theory to explain how to cut down the number of tests significantly, by
pooling samples of blood.
In 1997 Garry Kasparov, then World Champion, lost an entire chess match to the IBM supercomputer Deep Blue, and it is only a matter of time before the machines become absolutely unbeatable. But the human brain, as Lewis Dartnell explains, is still able to put up a good fight by exploiting computers' weaknesses.