Plus Blog

March 28, 2008
Friday, March 28, 2008

One of the most important international prizes for mathematics has this year been awarded jointly to two outstanding mathematicians — even though one of them was originally unable to find a publisher for his groundbreaking work.



posted by Plus @ 4:23 PM


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March 27, 2008
Thursday, March 27, 2008

Film3 — maths at the movies

Mathematical films will be featured next week in the Edinburgh International Science Festival's mathematics film festival Film3 — maths at the movies.

Pi will be featured on 1 April.

The season of mathematical movies was created by the International Centre for Mathematical Sciences and Filmhouse Cinema to showcase three very different independent films. Each film is based around a mathematical concept, but also provides an element of social commentary.

The season opens on 27 March with the UK premiere of the highly acclaimed animation, Flatland the Film. Based on the 1889 novel by Edwin A. Abbot, the film tackles issues revolving around race, gender, religion and globalisation. Mr A. Square is an average middle-class Flatlander until enlightenment allows him to see his world from a different dimension. He discovers that Flatland is threatened by forces it cannot possibly recognise. Will he be able to save his family and his world? Everyone attending the screening will receive a "goody bag" containing postcards signed by Flatland's director Ladd Ehlinger Jr, a copy of the novel donated by Transreal Fiction, vouchers from Filmhouse and Edinburgh International Science Festival, and other mathematical goodies from ICMS. A discussion led by Maximillian Ruffert of University of Edinburgh and Katie Russell of Heriot-Watt University will follow the film.

You can read the Plus review of the original 1889 novel Flatland in the Plus article 'Flatland'.

Pi is screened on 1 April and explores the life and experiences of Max, a gifted mathematician who believes that everything in the Universe can be expressed mathematically. He becomes obsessed with finding the underlying pattern behind the stock market, but religious and commercial groups try to exploit his research. Can he pass through this philosophical maelstrom and survive unscathed? Giorgos Papageorgiou and Tim Johnson of Heriot Watt University will discuss the film with the audience after the screening.

The final film, Cube, is screened on April 3. Cube investigates the relationships between six apparently unconnected individuals who wake up inside a three-dimensional maze of interlocking cubes. Developing mutual trust is the key to survival as they are forced to collaborate on cracking the code behind the Cube's mechanism. How many will escape to discover the bigger mystery that lies outside their existentialist prison? Science fiction author and mathematician Hannu Rajaniemi will discuss questions arising from the mathematics in Cube with the audience.

Tickets are available for individual films, or at a discounted rate for all three, from the box office at Filmhouse Cinema, 88 Lothian Road, Edinburgh, EH3 9BZ (phone: 0131 228 2688). Each screening will start at 5.45pm, and there will be discussion in the theatre after the screening, and then over coffee and drinks.

Plus will be attending the screening of Pi, so please come and chat to us! You can read more on the Film3 — maths at the movies website.

posted by westius @ 2:57 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 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

Physical demonstration of mathematical traffic model

Recently, Plus reported on work done by mathematicians from the Universities of Exeter, Bristol and Budapest into why traffic jams often occur for seemingly no reason.

Now, for the first time, researchers from several Japanese universities have recreated this effect by placing 22 vehicles on a 230-metre single-lane circuit. The drivers drove at a steady 30 kilometres per hour, and whilst initially the traffic flowed smoothly, eventually a backwards travelling shock-wave developed which forced some cars to almost stop and others to increase their speed to 40 kilometres per hour to catch the car in front.

Watch the video below, which comes from the New Scientist channel on you-tube. You can read more about this in the original New Scientist article.


At 8:34 PM, Blogger Tenon_Saw said...

I've always wanted to know!

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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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