Plus Blog

December 12, 2010

Got your popcorn? Picked a good seat? Are you sitting comfortably? Then let the credits roll...

Maths goes to the movies
We have all marvelled at the incredibly life-like computer generated images in the movies. What most of us don't realise is that the dinosaurs of Jurassic Park and the wonders of Lord of the Rings — particularly the star turn of Gollum — would not have been possible without mathematics.

It's all in the detail
The computer animation used in movies and games is now so lifelike, it is very hard to believe that you are actually watching a surface built from simple shapes of triangles. Phil Dench tells us how he uses mathematics to help bring these models to life.

Career interview: Visual effects director
Alexis Wajsbrot is a visual effects specialist who has worked on a number of high-profile films including Harry Potter and the Half-blood Prince, Harry Potter and the Order of Phoenix, Tim Burton's Sweeney Todd, and also on some of those visually stunning commercials you see while waiting for your film to start. His speciality is anything that behaves like a fluid: water, smoke, fire, even fur or cloth. He told us how he uses maths to simulate nature on a computer.

Maths, madness and movies
Mathematicians have often been considered a little eccentric; Charles Darwin once defined a mathematician as "a blind man in a dark room looking for a black cat which isn't there." Now, in the age of film, movie makers seem to go one step further: mathematicians appear to be disturbed at best, displaying a kind of neuroses through numbers. Since here at Plus we firmly believe in our sanity, we're puzzled as to why.

Plus podcast: Maths in the movies
Maths has long been a theme in the movies. In this podcast we talk to Madeleine Shepherd, organiser of a maths film festival at the Edinburgh science festival, about how maths has been presented in the movies over the years, with particular reference to three more recent films, Cube, Pi and Flatland.

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December 11, 2010
Plain Bob

Bells can do a lot more than just jingle! In fact, being a decent bell ringer requires razor-sharp mathematical precision and a vast memory. And just 16 bells are enough to provide your neighbours with over a million years of non-repeating bellish amusement. Find out how with Ringing the changes.

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December 10, 2010

Today the Nobel Prize award ceremonies will be held in Sweden! And while there may not be a Nobel Prize for maths, most of the science laureates' achievements would be impossible without it. Find out why with our stories on some of this and past years' Nobel Prizes:

Maths has its very own important prize of course, called the Fields Medal. This year Plus was proud to be present at the International Congress of Mathmaticians in India, where the medals were awarded. Find out all about what we got up to with our news coverage from the congress, including interviews with some of the medallists in our podcasts.

And if you still haven't got enough of prizes, have a look at our coverage of previous Fields Medals, as well as the Abel Prize.

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December 8, 2010

Maths is the language of the universe: not only does it describe how the universe works, it also may be the secret weapon in the hunt for extraterrestrial life. And if we find them, maths might also provide the ideal way to break the ice with our little green friends from across the sky...

Hunting for life in alien worlds
Two of the most fundamental questions asked by people are how life emerged on the Earth, and whether we are alone in the cosmos. These deeply important questions form the core of a new kind of science, one that recently has been rapidly gathering momentum: astrobiology. You can also read more in Lewis Dartnell's excellent book Life in the Universe. And you can even hear Lewis talk about the science behind the latest aliens to hit the big screen in Monsters!

Life as we don't know it
Physicist and cosmologist Paul Davies is also doing research in astrobiology. He tells Plus about his interest in the big questions: what is life, how would we recognise aliens - and are they all around us?

Mathematics for aliens
It has often been observed that mathematics is astonishingly effective as a tool for understanding the universe. But why should this be? Is mathematics a universal truth, and how would we tell?

Games, Life and the Game of Life
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.

Pi appears in crop circle
If these are alien calling cards, then we can be sure they are keen mathematicians.

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December 7, 2010

How does Santa manage to squeeze through chimneys? How do reindeers manage to fly? When will I get the Christmas shopping done? These things are mysteries, so in keeping with the mood, Door 8 opens on some of our favourite mysteries from the world of maths.

Forget the shopping and join us in musing over Achilles and the tortoise, exotic geometries, the paradoxical barber and whether being nice to others is just for Christmas, or a good survival strategy.

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December 3, 2010

What would Christmas be without the unlimited eating? And as it turns out, maths helps it all to go down well. Find out how with Eat, drink and be merry and our interview with a fluid mechanics researcher.

You can also learn how to make the perfect pizza, how your national cuisine evolved, and why bacon sandwiches aren't really that bad for you.

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