Genes normally evolve by tiny mutations, but every now and then something more radical occurs and entire genes along a chromosome get flipped. Understanding gene flipping boils down to solving a problem from pure maths. Colva Roney-Dougal and Vincent Vatter explain, taking us on a journey from waiters sorting pancakes, via one of the richest men in the world, to the genetic similarities of mice and humans.
The obvious answer is 24 hours, but, as Nicholas Mee discovers, that would be far too simple. In fact, the length of a day varies throughout the year. If you plot the position of the Sun in the sky at the same time every day, you get a strange figure of eight which has provided one artist with a source for inspiration.
Think drug-induced hallucinations, and the whirly, spirally, tunnel-vision-like patterns of psychedelic imagery immediately spring to mind. But it's not just hallucinogenic drugs that conjure up these geometric structures. People have reported seeing them in near-death experiences, following sensory deprivation, or even just after applying pressure to the eyeballs. So what can these patterns tell us about the structure of our brains?
Many mathematicians find the pure and tight patterns of juggling as irresistible as those of mathematics. Burkard Polster explains how to get to grips with the bewildering range of juggling possibilities and invites you to do your own virtual juggling.
In 1997 Andy Green was the first to break the sound barrier in his car Thrust SSC, which reached speeds of over 760mph. Now he and his team want to push things even further with a car called Bloodhound, designed to reach the dizzy heights of 1,000mph, about 1.3 times the speed of sound. Ben Evans explains how maths is used to build this car.
A Gömböc is a strange thing. It looks like an egg with sharp edges, and when you put it down it starts wriggling and rolling around as if it were alive. Until quite recently, no-one knew whether Gömböcs even existed. Even now, Gábor Domokos, one of their discoverers, reckons that in some sense they barely exists at all. So what are Gömböcs and what makes them special?
Tilings have adorned buildings from ancient Rome to the Islamic world, from Victorian England to colonial Mexico. But while it sometimes seems free from worldly limitations, tiling is a very precise art, where not much can be left to chance. We can push and turn and wiggle, but if the maths is not right, it isn't going to tile. Josefina Alvarez and Cesar L. Garcia investigate.