Plus Blog

March 25, 2008
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
A new mathematical object was revealed to great acclaim at the American Institute of Mathematics last week. Ce Bian and Andrew Booker from the University of Bristol showed the first example of a third degree transcendental L-function.

L-functions underpin much of twentieth century number theory. They feature in the proof of Fermat's last theorem, as well as playing a part in the recent classification of congruent numbers, a problem first posed one thousand years ago.



posted by westius @ 4:00 PM


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March 25, 2008
Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Mathematical physicist wins 2008 Templeton Prize

The 2008 Templeton Prize has been awarded to Polish mathematical physicist Michael Heller. Heller has worked for more than 40 years in theology, philosophy, mathematics and cosmology, and intends to use the £820,000 prize to set up a cross-university and inter-disciplinary institute to investigate questions in science, theology and philosophy.

16th century depiction of Genesis (Michelangelo, Sistine Chapel): God creates Adam. Like Galileo, Heller thinks that mathematics is the "language of God."

The Templeton Prize was founded in 1972 by philanthropist Sir John Templeton, and is awarded annually to a living person for "progress toward research or discoveries about spiritual realities". It is the world's largest annual monetary prize of any kind given to an individual (£820,000). Plus reported on John Barrow's success in 2006.

Heller has been rewarded for "developing sharply focused and strikingly original concepts on the origin and cause of the Universe, often under intense (communist Poland) governmental repression."

Heller's work these days is largely in non-commutative geometry, which he uses to attempt to remove the problem of a cosmological singularity at the origin of the Universe. "If on the fundamental level of physics there is no space and no time, as many physicists think," says Heller, "non-commutative geometry could be a suitable tool to deal with such a situation."

You can read more on non-commutative geometry in the Plus article Quantum Geometry.

posted by westius @ 2:00 PM


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March 18, 2008
Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Happy Belated Pi Day

March 14th, when written in the US format with the month before the day, is 3.14 — which makes last Friday Pi Day!

To belatedly celebrate this momentous day, here are some of the articles about Pi we have featured on Plus:

  • Mathematical mysteries: Transcendental meditation — We make rational numbers from integers by allowing division by integers other than zero. Rational numbers were all the Greeks allowed. This left them confused — and sometimes frightened — when geometric results such as Pythagoras' Theorem seemed to imply that rational numbers weren't enough. And what to do with Pi?
  • Remembrance of numbers past — In March 2004, Daniel Tammet from Kent set a new European record when he recited Pi from memory to 22,511 decimal places. It took him five hours to complete the task, yet he had barely made it halfway to the world record of 42,195 digits set by Hiroyuki Goto of Japan in 1995.
  • Pi not a piece of cake — Ever since the Egyptians' first attempts to calculate Pi over two millennia ago, the number has been a constant in the minds of mathematicians.
  • Pushing back Pi — Numbers like Pi have no repeating pattern. So just how accurately do we know what it is?
  • What is the Area of a Circle? — And what's Pi got to do with it?

Pi Day also happily happens to be Albert Einstein's birthday. We can now look forward to various Pi Approximation Days:

  • July 22: 22/7, a common approximation of Pi
  • November 10: The 314th day of the year
  • December 21, 1:13 p.m.: The 355th day of the year, celebrated at 1:13 pm for the Chinese approximation 355/11

posted by westius @ 9:42 AM


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March 13, 2008
Thursday, March 13, 2008

Beyond Measure: Conversations across art and science is a new exhibition at Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge that explores how geometry is used by artists and astronomers, engineers, surgeons, architects, physicists and mathematicians — among many others — as a means to explain, understand and order the world around us.

Built around a series of workshops, talks and discussions, Beyond Measure will offer many different ways of engaging with geometry, and many different views of the world we live in. The exhibition draws parallels between the artist’s studio, the laboratory and the study as equivalent places for thinking, imagining and creating.



posted by westius @ 1:18 PM


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March 12, 2008
Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Have you ever attended a Royal Institution Mathematics Masterclass?

If you have, then the Royal Institution of Great Britain would like to hear from you.

Since 1981 the RI Masterclasses in Mathematics have been enriching school maths for 12 to 14 year-olds. Now the RI is for the first time undertaking an independent evaluation of the programme. "This is a very exciting opportunity," says Sara Santos, Clothworkers' Fellow in Mathematics at the RI, "We are seeking to further improve our already successful programme, even perhaps reshape it to challenge and enthuse our finest young minds."

If you have participated in any of the RI Mathematics Masterclasses for Young People (any time between 1981 and now), you can now record your memories and reflections in this on-line questionnaire. The questionnaire takes around 15 minutes to complete. "It might be a precious amount of time for you, but your feedback is invaluable for us," says Sara. "We are also trying to keep in touch with the Masterclasses community." To keep in touch, please visit the RI website, email the RI on, or join the group RI Mathematics Masterclasses for Young People on Facebook .

posted by Plus @ 2:29 PM


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March 10, 2008
Monday, March 10, 2008

Maths and Science through the medium of song

They say that music is a very mathematical pursuit. Here at Plus, we have written about mathematics and music many times.

The MASSIVE database is a website that contains information on over 2500 science and mathematics songs. Some songs are for children, others for professors. Some are by professional recording artists, others recorded in garages. The site is maintained by Greg Crowther, who is affiliated with the University of Washington, Science Groove, and the Science Songwriters' Association. MASSIVE is part of the US National Science Foundation's National Science Digital Library.

My personal favourite science song? She Blinded me with Science by Thomas Dolby — and you can find this song in the database. Another way of tracking down science songs is by doing a search for science at LastFM. What is your favourite science or mathematics song?

posted by westius @ 3:00 PM <


At 3:25 PM,  westius said...

Weird Science by Oingo Boingo is another classic

At 12:14 PM,  ogs22 said...

An interesting webpage here -

Along with a visualisation of Deep Purple's "smoke on the water" on a Mobius strip...

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