Plus Blog

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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December 3, 2010

It's the weekend, the snow is gently falling outside, and inside the fire is blazing ... what better way to spend the time than puzzling over our special Plus sudokus? They're not what you're used to...

Or if you'd rather like to spend your time reading, find out about the history of sudoku, why sudoku puzzles help to take pictures of tiny things like cells, or muse on some sudoku questions that puzzle mathematicians.

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December 3, 2010
A Hubble image

Image courtesy NASA.

The best thing about Christmas are the presents! And if it hadn't been for that blazing star guiding the three magi to baby Jesus, laden with gold, frankincense and myrrh, then we might not have that present giving tradition at all.

So for Door #5 of the Plus Advent calendar we turn our gaze to the stars and muse on the biggest mysteries of the Universe. Find out what happened before the Big Bang, whether we will one day be able to travel through time, whether those mysterious constants of nature really are constant, how gravity works, and unravel the secrets of dark matter and dark energy.

You can also find out what the greatest star gazers of them all, the Hubble Space Telescope, has discovered, whether there's life on distant planets, why the Universe might just be an illusion, and why a single number holds the key to it all.

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