Articles

Over the last few years the words string theory have nudged their way into public consciousness. It's a theory of everything in which everything's made of strings — or something like that. But why strings? What do they do? Where did the idea come from and why do we need such a theory? David Berman has an equation-free introduction for beginners.
Life is full of coincidences, but how do you work out if something is really as unlikely as it seems? In this article Rob Eastaway and John Haigh find chance in church and work out the odds.
Squares do it, triangles do it, even hexagons do it — but pentagons don't. They just won't fit together to tile a flat surface. So are there any tilings based on fiveness? Craig Kaplan takes us through the five-fold tiling problem and uncovers some interesting designs in the process.
John Napier was a clever man indeed. Besides inventing the logarithm, he developed ingenious calculating devices that fully exploit the power of the positional system. In this article Chris Sangwin tells you how to make your own set of Napier's bones and perform mathemagic with an interactive checker board.
Phil Wilson continues our series on the life and work of Leonhard Euler, who would have turned 300 this year. This article looks at the calculus of variations and a mysterious law of nature that has caused some scientists to reach out for god.
How does complexity arise from simplicity?
You might know the famous formula for an area of a circle, but why does this formula work? Tom Körner's explanation really is a piece of cake, served up with a hefty estimate of pi.
One of the many strange ideas from quantum mechanics is that space isn't continuous but consists of tiny chunks. Ordinary geometry is useless when it comes to dealing with such a space, but algebra makes it possible to come up with a model of spacetime that might do the trick. And it can all be tested by a satellite. Shahn Majid met up with Plus to explain.