Plus Blog

November 5, 2010

Image: L. Shyamal.

Mathematical language can heighten the imagery of a poem, and mathematical structure can deepen its effect. This lovely blog by JoAnne Growney lets you feast on an international menu of poems made rich by maths.

Here's an example of a Fib, that's a poem in which the number of syllables in each line follow the Fibonacci sequence, which appears on the blog. It was written by Athena Kildegaard.

all else is
false hope or blind faith.
What can be seen or heard or known
by pressing hard against this world—that is beautiful.

November 3, 2010

You're unlikely to ever run into a black hole, but here's what it "looks" and "sounds" like when two black holes run into each other. The movie below, produced by Frans Pretorius at Princeton University, shows a simulation of the gravitational waves generated when two black holes collide and form a third. Gravitational waves are ripples in the fabric of spacetime, resulting from events involving massive objects which distort spacetime. The waves were predicted by Einstein's theory of gravity. No-one has directly observed gravitational waves yet, but there's indirect evidence for their existence. And if you could see these ripples, this is what they would look like.

"[Collisions like this are] expected to happen in the Universe for any two black holes that are sufficiently close to form a bound, orbiting system," says Pretorius. "Their orbital motion causes the gravitational waves to be radiated outwards. However, gravitational waves carry energy, which comes at the expense of the orbital energy, which is why the black holes spiral in and merge into a single large black hole. "

Another research group, based at MIT and led by Scott A. Hughes, has turned the gravitational waves generated by a black hole collision into sound waves. Click here to listen.

You can find out more about gravitational waves in our interview with Bangalore Sathyaprakash and about how the gravitational waves are turned into sound on the MIT website.

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November 3, 2010

Ever wondered how your cat can be dead and alive at the same time, or whether there could be a version of you with tentacles editing a magazine in a parallel universe? (Rest assured, Plus is currently tentacle-less and in this universe.)

Science Brainwaves, a student-led organisation from the University of Sheffield, with the aim of bringing all things science to the masses, present this year’s Christmas Lecture. Dr Paul Stevenson will discuss weird physics — the brain contorting conundrums that give us lasers, phone apps, MRI scanners and light switches.

The talk will take place on the 17th December at 6pm in the grade II listed St George’s Lecture Theatre in the heart of the city, followed by a festive reception where the University’s physics department will provide demos and other activities for the public to get involved in. The event is free to attend and is suitable especially for families with children from 8+. To register for tickets visit

To get in the mood, you can read more about weird physics on Plus.

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November 3, 2010

Matt Parker (in addition to organising the next MathsJam) has just published a column in the Guardian about How to win a million dollars with maths.

This is the first column in Matt's series on the seven Millennium Prize Problems posed by the Clay Institute. It's an excellent introduction to the Riemann Hypothesis and he also reveals the intriguing fact: All prime numbers (greater than five) squared are one more than a multiple of 24. Hmmm...

We're looking forward to the next column in the series! And in the meantime you can also read more about the Millennium Prize Problems and the Riemann Hypothesis on Plus.

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November 3, 2010

Yummy, maths flavoured! (Image by PatríciaR)

The MathsJam weekend is now only 10 days away — the weekend of November 13-14 in the Midlands!

The MathsJam is an opportunity for like-minded self-confessed maths enthusiasts to get together and share stuff they like. Puzzles, games, problems, or just anything they think is cool or interesting.

The weekend is being organised by some good friends of Plus — Colin Wright, David Bedford, James Grime, Matt Parker and Rob Eastaway. You can find out more on the MathsJam site, where you can reserve your place for this fun event.

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October 29, 2010

Immortality by Nicholas Mee and John Robinson.

SCIENAR, a European project to stimulate and develop links between science and art, has just produced a new DVD exploring three emblematic scenarios where science and art intersect. Looking at three historical ages, antiquity, the renaissance and modern times, the DVD explores a range of topics, from ancient geometry to perspective, relativity and chaos theory. You can find out more on the associated website.

Virtual Image will send free copies of the DVD to the first ten people to e-mail Nick Mee at Anyone else can obtain a DVD for £5 including postage and packing by contacting Virtual Images by email, phone or post. The contact details are:

Virtual Image Publishing Ltd
184 Reddish Road
Tel: 0161 480 1915
Fax: 0161 612 2965

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