Plus Blog

December 10, 2008
Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Support Plus — make a difference to mathematics

If you are a regular Plus reader who enjoys the weird and wonderful world of mathematics, then you may be interested in helping Plus secure its future. We are launching a campaign to raise the funds we need for the continued development and production of Plus beyond 2009.

As you may know, Plus receives no statutory funding and is entirely supported by donations and grants. Our activities are made possible by the generosity of organisations and individuals committed to the future of mathematics education and to improving the public understanding of mathematics. However, our current core funding is due to end in March 2009, and we are therefore actively seeking further funds to sustain the future of Plus.

Please consider making a donation to Plus via our parent organisation, the Millennium Mathematics Project, based at the University of Cambridge. Your money will go towards the salary costs of our editorial staff (who write articles and news items, edit contributions by external authors, and produce podcasts), and our technical staff who maintain the website. Your contribution, no matter how big or small, will enable us to keep Plus as it is: interesting, intelligent, fun, and — very importantly — free of charge for all our readers.

There are three ways to give to Plus:

  • Online: You can donate by credit card online via the University of Cambridge Development Office's secure site. Giving in this way means, if you wish, your donation can benefit from Gift Aid, making your gift worth even more to us at no extra cost to you. Please choose the option to support the Millennium Mathematics Project.

  • By cheque: You can send a cheque made payable to The Cambridge Foundation together with a completed donation form to:

    Patrick Hawke-Smith
    University of Cambridge Development Office
    1 Quayside
    Bridge Street
    Cambridge CB5 8AB

    Giving via the Cambridge Foundation means that if you wish your donation can benefit from Gift Aid.

  • Cambridge in America: If you are a US taxpayer you may prefer to donate via Cambridge in America. You can give online or by check using the Cambridge in America gift form. Please state when making your gift that you would like your donation to support the Millennium Mathematics Project and particularly Plus.

If you would like to discuss supporting the project in more detail, please contact Julia Hawkins at the Millennium Mathematics Project or Patrick Hawke-Smith at the University of Cambridge Development Office.

Thank you for your support!

posted by Plus @ 5:48 PM


December 1, 2008
Monday, December 01, 2008

Heavenly threesome

Tonight sees a rare astronomical event: the Moon, Venus and Jupiter can all be seen close to each other in the same region of the night sky. In fact, Venus just passed behind the Moon! Over the next few nights, clouds permitting, you'll be able to see them slowly moving apart — get out your telescopes and look out for bright objects near the Moon!

posted by Plus @ 6:01 PM


At 1:23 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh noes, missed it! Please can you post the skywatching tips well in advance.

BTW, they won't be near the moon for long.

December 1, 2008
Monday, December 01, 2008

The science of complexity

What do the human brain, the Internet and climate change have in common? They're all hugely complex, and while they're very different, the tools used to grapple with this complexity are likely to be similar. We visited the Cambridge complex systems consortium, dedicated to building an over-arching science of complexity, and talked to neuroscientist Ed Bullmore, mathematician Frank Kelly and climate scientist Hans Graf about their take on complexity. Listen to the podcast of the interviews.

This podcast accompanies the article Catching terrorists with maths.

Hear more!


posted by Plus @ 11:43 AM


December 1, 2008
Monday, December 01, 2008

The recent news of the great Indian batsman Sachin Tendulkar surpassing West Indian Brian Lara's record number of test runs has given maths-loving cricket geeks another opportunity to pull out their calculators and Excel spreadsheets. Marc West is openly one of these nuts and did just that.



posted by Plus @ 3:05 PM


November 25, 2008
Tuesday, November 25, 2008

It may come as a surprise that your average proof in an academic journal is riddled with holes. Authors gloss over details, appeal to pictures, even intuition, and take hidden leaps of logical faith that, philosophically speaking, aren't entirely justified. These days mathematics contains proofs so long and complex that few people are able to check and understand them in full, yet once a result has made it through the peer review process and into a journal, its truth is taken as read.

All this is a far cry from the mathematical dream which started with Euclid over 2000 years ago: that every mathematical statement should be derived from the very axioms of mathematics in a sequence of verifiable logical steps. Proofs which do this are known as formal proofs, and they are the focus of a special issue of the Notices of the American Mathematics Society, which is now freely available online.

Read more ...


posted by Plus @ 11:30 AM


November 25, 2008
Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Say cheese! First ever images of exoplanets.

Astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope have taken the first visible-light snapshot of a planet orbiting another star. Estimated to be no more than three times Jupiter's mass, the planet, called Fomalhaut b, orbits the bright southern star Fomalhaut, located 25 light-years away in the constellation Piscis Australis, or the "Southern Fish." An immense debris disc about 21.5 billion miles across surrounds the star. Fomalhaut b is orbiting 1.8 billion miles inside the disc's sharp inner edge, and is 1 billion times fainter than the star.

In a separate development, Canadian scientists have used ground-based telescopes in Hawaii and Chile to take infrared images of three giant planets they believe are orbiting a star about 130 light-years away in the Pegasus constellation.

These are not the first examples of exoplanets — planets orbiting stars outside our own solar system — but Formalhaut b is the first that can actually be observed in visible light wavelengths. All others have been detected indirectly, for example through the wobble their gravitational pull induces on their star.

To find out more about the new discovery, and see more images and videos, visit the Hubble Site. There is more information on exoplanets in general on and in the Plus article Brave young worlds.

posted by Plus @ 11:25 AM


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