Plus Blog

August 17, 2010

Chern medal

The Chern Medal

Plus has opened its temporary head office in Hyderabad! We're here for the International Conference of Women Mathematicians, starting today, and the International Congress of Mathematicians (ICM) starting on Thursday. The highlight (apart from Plus' presentation on public engagement with maths) will be the award of the Fields Medals for 2010.

The Fields Medal is the most prestigious prize in mathematics, akin to the Nobel Prize. It is awarded to up to four mathematicians at each ICM, which meets every four years. The prize is awarded to mathematicians under the age of 40 in recognition of their existing work and for the promise of their future achievements. You can read more about the Fields Medal on Plus.

And the Fields medal isn't the only prestigious prize being awarded at the ICM. The Rolf Nevanlinna Prize recognises achievements in mathematical aspects of computer and information science. The Carl Friedrich Gauss Prize, which was first awarded at the last congress in 2006, is for outstanding mathematical contributions that have found significant applications outside of mathematics. The first recipient of this prize was the Japanese mathematician Kiyoshi Itô, then aged 90, for his development of stochastic analysis. His work has allowed mathematicians to describe Brownian motion — a random motion similar to the one you see when you let a particle float in a liquid or gas. Itô's theory applies also to the size of a population of living organisms, to the frequency of a certain allele within the gene pool of a population, or even more complex biological quantities. It is also now integral to financial trading as it forms the basis of the Black-Scholes formula underlying almost all financial transactions that involve options or futures. (You can read more about the Black-Scholes formula in A risky business: how to price derivatives on Plus.)

This years ICM also sees the inauguration of a new prize, the Chern Medal, for an individual whose accomplishments warrant the highest level of recognition for outstanding achievements in the field of mathematics, regardless of their field or occupation. The medal is in memory of the outstanding Chinese mathematician Shiing-Shen Chern. Plus is looking forward to finding out the winners of all of the prizes at this year's ICM, and more importantly, to learning about their mathematical achievements and how they have contributed to mathematics and society at large. Stay tuned to our news section, our blog or follow us on Twitter to find out all the news first.

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August 6, 2010

Plus is proud to host the 68th edition of the carnival of mathematics, celebrating mathematical blogging!

The carnival invites mathematical bloggers to submit the recent blog posts they're most proud of and the current host then publishes a list of the best ones on the first Friday of the month. (You can find out more at Walking randomly.) So here we go....

The 68th carnival of maths blog posts are:


Katie Chicot explains how the world cup is a statistician's dream in Maths of a World Cup win.

Tracy Beach takes us out the to ball game for Math Awareness Month on The DreamBox Blog.

Nice numbers and counting

Mostlymaths takes a brief look at happy numbers, unhappy numbers and the evil properties of integers in Happiness.

Jason Dyer asks "How many counting numbers do we need?" in Is "one, two, many" a myth? at The Number Warrior.

Guillermo Bautista discusses The Intuition Behind The Infinitude of Prime Numbers and Counting the Uncountable: A Glimpse at Infinite Sets in Mathematics and Multimedia

Fëanor explains why 23 is really a very interesting number in The Magic of 23.

Sol from Wild About Math! introduces a very clever calculator called Genaille’s rods.

Nice Proofs

The Count is being Discretely simple by giving a couple of examples of simple proofs that show not all maths is complex.

Alexander Bogomolny has a flipping fantastic proof that will keep your glasses the right way up on CTK Insights.

Poetry and books

Finding Moonshine has a round-up of Fibs — poems with 1,1,2,3,5,8,13 syllables per line — from Marcus du Sautoy's twitter followers.

Shecky Riemann takes a brief look at novelist David Foster Wallace's quirky account of the concept of infinity in his 2003 nonfiction volume Everything and More in Infinity and More (or Less).....

Taking chances

Brian Hayes spots typos in The thrill of the chase.

Denise from Let's Play Math! has collected together some nice probability quotes in Quotations XXIV: Probability.

Pat Ballew gives a Pythagorean/Law of Cosines approach to a statistical idea in Standard Deviations of Sums of Distributions.

And finally...

Mike Croucher writes about random number generation in MATLAB at Walking Randomly. has some cute mathsy pics, including The best watch we've ever seen.

Murray Bourne explains why it is important to learn the historical context of maths in What did Newton originally say about Integration?.

Teaching College Math has an obituary for a past contributor the the carnival, Mathfaery: Elizabeth Hamman.

And a recent favourite from our very own news section: How moss blows smoke rings.


That concludes this edition. Submit your blog article to the next edition of carnival of mathematics using our carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.

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July 27, 2010

Renowned cosmologist and mathematician John D. Barrow has turned his attention to rowing, with intriguing results. As others did before him, Barrow noticed that the force generated by a rower in a boat has two components: one drives the boat forward and one to the side. Since the sideways motion represents wasted effort, rowers should be positioned in the boat so that it is minimised. So what exactly is the ideal positioning of rowers, the ideal rig?

It's a mathematical problem and Barrow has come up with solutions to an idealised version, including a rig that never seems to have been used before in competitive rowing. Last week the New Scientist put Barrow's ideas to the test in a little paddle down the Thames ... you can read about the results on the New Scientist website.

If you'd like to read more of John D. Barrow's work, have a look at his Plus column Outer space.

July 22, 2010

After several months of hard work, particularly by computer legend Owen Smith, the new Plus site is now live!

All the Plus content you know and love is still there, and is still accessible at the same URLs. And with a few changes to the layout and navigation, we hope the new site will be easier to use. All the different types of content we produce is listed in the top bar. Every article now has a comments feature at the bottom of the page, which you can use by registering with Plus — it's free and easy to do. Registering with Plus will also enable you to create pdf documents from our content. You can register here.

We've done our best to make sure everything on the new site works, but if you do come across any problems or something you don't like, then please get in touch, either by emailing us at, or by posting a comment on the relevant page. We'd be really grateful for your feedback and we hope you like the new site!

July 22, 2010

There are lots of chances to get up close and personal with maths at the BA Science Festival in Birmingham on the 14-19 September 2010. You can hunt pi, do magic, uncover the risks of ignorance and discover how maths changed the world and won the war...

Pi Hunting Wednesday 15 September 15:00-17:00
Plus author Robin Wilson and colleagues explore the amazing history of Pi.
Location: MB518 (Aston campus) Cost: £5

75 Years of Radar Friday 17 September 10:00-12:00
Plus contributors Chris Budd, Colin Wright and Cathryn Mitchell reveal maths vital contribution to winning the war and how it still keeps us safe in the air today.
Location: MB155 (Aston campus) Cost: £5

MATHS PRESIDENTIAL LECTURE: How risky is it and how ignorant are we? Friday 17 September 16:00-17:00
Plus columnist David Spiegelhalter explains that either unpredictability or ignorance can lead to uncertainty, but often there's a messy mixture of the two. Find out how uncertainty can be quantified. Followed by a Reception sponsored by the Royal Statistical Society.
Location: MB550 (Aston campus) Cost: £3

Geometry of the Industrial Revolution Friday 17 September 18:30-19:30
Plus author Chris Sangwin argues that mathematics changed the world by making the industrial revolution possible.
Location: Thinktank (sci museum) Cost: £3

The Maths & Computing Magic Show Saturday 18 September 16:00-17:30
Peter McOwan performs amazing magic and gives you a sneak peek behind the scenes to explore the maths and computing powering the tricks.
Location: MB550 Cost: £3

The Serious Side of Scientific Trivia Sunday 19 September 16:00-17:00
Robert Matthews discusses how Curiosity-driven science and mathematics can have a major impact on society. In addition, the results of the Great British Knot Experiment will be revealed.
Location: MB518 (Aston campus) Cost: £3

ALL WEEK: Maths on the Street
Throughout the week of the British Science Festival, teams of Maths Buskers will take to the streets of Birmingham to show the general public just how amazing mathematics can be!
Location: Various Cost: Free

And you can have a go yourself at the FunMaths Roadshow which will be running during the Family Weekend.

These events are part of the British Science Festival in Birmingham from 14-19 September 2010. Details of all events are available online and tickets can be booked online or by calling 020 7019 4947.

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July 20, 2010

Watching cyclists struggle through the Tour de France from our armchairs (or should it be deckchairs?) is great fun, but as Burkard Polster and Marty Ross have discovered, it would be even more fun if the cyclists cycled in circles.

If you draw a closed convex loop on the ground and cycle so that your back wheel follows the loop, your front wheel will trace out a larger loop. It turns out that the area in between the two loops is always the same, regardless of the shapes and sizes of the two loops: if the length between the two wheel hubs of your bike is L, then the area between the loops is always π L2. Go to the The Age Education Resource Centre to find out why...

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