Clearly the modern electronic computer couldn't have been built before electronics existed, but it's not clear why computers powered by steam or clockwork weren't invented earlier. Tom Körner speculates on the historical reasons why computers were invented when they were.
When we finally meet the Martians, John Conway believes they are going to want to talk mathematics. He talks to Plus about his Life game, artificial life and what we will have in common with extraterrestrials.
Suppose you walk past a barber's shop one day, and see a sign that says
"Do you shave yourself? If not, come in and I'll shave you! I shave anyone who does not shave himself, and noone else."
This seems fair enough, and fairly simple, until, a little later, the following question occurs to you - does the barber shave himself?
If your team scores first in a football match, how likely is it to win? And when is it worth committing a professional foul? John Haigh shows us how to use probability to answer these and other questions, and explains the implications for the rules of the game.
Fluid mechanics is the study of flows in both liquids and gases, and is therefore enormously important in understanding many natural phenomena, as well as in industrial applications. Geophysicist Herbert Huppert tells us what happens when two fluids of different densities meet, for example when volcanos erupt and hot ash-laden air is poured out into the atmosphere.