The Internet is huge. With mobile phones and other devices now being hooked up as well as computers, it will soon comprise many billions of endpoints. In sheer size and complexity the Internet is not far off the human brain with its hundred billion neurons linked up by around ten thousand trillion individual connections. If you're finding it hard even to read these huge numbers off the page, how can anyone be expected to cope with complexity on this vast scale? While mathematical tools that deal with complexity have experienced rapid development it recent years, there still isn't an overarching science of complexity, a mathematical toolbox serving everyone who's dealing with it in whatever shape or form.
This month a group of experts from a range of different areas got together in Cambridge to try and remedy the situation. It was the first ever meeting of the Cambridge Complex Systems Consortium. Delegates included a climate scientist, a former head of MI6, a neuroscientist, a sociologists, and a mathematician. Plus went to see them, to learn about their struggle with complexity.Read more...
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posted by Plus @ 10:28 AM
Want some Plus in print?
If you're a fan of our regular Outer Space column by John D Barrow, then you can now get your hands on some of it, and much more besides, in book form. In A hundred essential things you didn't know you didn't know Barrow applies his usual style and insight to anything from winning the lottery, placing bets at the races, and escaping from bears, to sports, Shakespeare, Google, game theory, drunks, divorce settlements and dodgy accounting — all obviously things that only make sense with maths. The bite-sized chapters are easy to digest and form formidable weapons in your war on ignorance.
posted by Plus @ 8:04 PM
For those of you who enjoy Ben Goldacre's Bad Science column in the Guardian, now is your chance to meet him in person. Ben is talking about "How the media promote the public misunderstanding of science" on Tuesday 21 October (next week) at 5.30pm in the Babbage Lecture Theatre, New Museums Site, Cambridge. It's a free public lecture and everyone is welcome, just turn up on the night.
The lecture is brought to you by Understanding Uncertainty, the Winton programme for the public understanding of risk at Cambridge. You can read more from the Understanding Uncertainty team on their site, or in their column on Plus.
posted by Plus @ 12:31 PM
Planet of the spoons
Good science is all about good method. Every scientific study worth its salt should begin with a clearly delineated question to be investigated, followed by the systematic gathering of evidence (often involving the use of statistics), and concluding with a sober-headed interpretation of evidence found.
Plus recently came across an excellent example of correct scientific method in the British Medical Journal, which we would like to share with our readers. The paper in question is a longitudinal cohort study of the displacement of teaspoons in an Australian research institute.
Plus is thinking of launching a complementary study into a phenomenon often observed in the Plus offices: the spontaneous acquisition of dirty tea cups.
posted by Plus @ 1:49 PM
- At 10:45 PM, westius said...
When I packed up to leave the UK, I found 10 forks, 4 spoons and 1 knife that weren't mine that had somehow migrated from work (not Plus) to home. I returned them without fuss before I left!
On the other hand, various workplaces over time have scored my tea towels and Tupperware, and I'm still looking for that rugby ball...
The 2008 Nobel Prize in Physics has been awarded to three men who's work has contributed significantly to our understanding of why we're here. Makoto Kobayashi of the High Energy Accelerator Research Organization, Japan, and Toshihide Maskawa of Kyoto Sangyo University share one half of the prize, with the remaining half going to Yoichiro Nambu of the University of Chicago. Their combined body of work paves the way towards solving two of the biggest mysteries of physics: why there is no antimatter and why things have mass. The answers to both are connected to flaws in nature's symmetry.Read more...
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posted by Plus @ 11:20 AM