Plus Blog

May 12, 2009
Tuesday, May 12, 2009

100 things you didn't know you didn't know

If you're thirsty for knowledge, then go along to this free Gresham College lecture taking place in London on Wednesday the 13th of May. It marks the publication of John D Barrow's latest book, 100 Essential Things You Didn't Know You Didn't Know, which answers one hundred essential questions of existence. 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; from chaos to infinity and everything in between. Barrow writes a regular column for Plus, so you might be lucky enough to see some maths you've seen in Plus live on stage.

The lecture starts at 6pm and you can find directions on the Gresham College website.

posted by Plus @ 3:36 PM


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May 7, 2009
Thursday, May 07, 2009

Listen to Plus podcasts and win a £50 book voucher!

If you have listened to one or more of our podcasts, then please tell us what you think about them by completing our online survey. It only takes five minutes, and you'll be entered into a prize draw to win a £50 book voucher — it doesn't matter where in the world you are! Your opinion will help us assess how well we've done on our podcasts so far, to improve future podcasts, and also to secure the funding we need to continue producing them.

Thanks very much for your help!

posted by Plus @ 11:24 AM


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May 7, 2009
Thursday, May 07, 2009

Thank you for supporting Plus!

Thank you very much to all the Plus readers who have given us such generous donations over the past few months.

Thanks to your generosity, as well as new grants from the Isaac Newton Trust and the Wellcome Trust, the future of Plus is now secure until July 2010.

Your donations arrived in response to a fundraising campaign we launched in December last year. At the time, the future of Plus was looking increasingly insecure, as our core funding was due to run out and the financial climate did not give much cause for optimism. As part of the Millennium Mathematics Project at the University of Cambridge, Plus is non-profit-making, receiving no statutory funding, and is entirely dependent on donations and grants from individuals and organisations committed to the public understanding of mathematics. But thanks to your swift response and generosity, together with the support of our other sponsors, we're able to continue to bring you the usual range of content from the fascinating world of maths, and — very importantly — Plus will remain free of charge for all its readers.

Thank you very much for your support!

posted by Plus @ 9:00 AM


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April 24, 2009
Friday, April 24, 2009

From string theory to maths education via investment banking

If you're worried that a mathematics degree might limit your career options, then there couldn't be a better person to talk to than Steve Hewson. Find out how his varied career has taken him from the lofty heights of theoretical physics, via the trading floor of a major investment bank, into the maths classroom, and has also seen him writing his very own maths book.

This podcast accompanies the career interview from issue 50 of Plus.

Hear more!


posted by Plus @ 1:00 AM


At 1:00 AM, Blogger westius said...

I love that Steve chose, at the age of 8, to do a PhD in general relativity!

At the age of 8, I wanted to play cricket for Australia, or perhaps climb that cool tree at the back of our yard....

At 10:58 PM, Anonymous Alex said...

Hello, i was just wondering if you need a math credit to become an early childhood educator, and i also would like to know what other things could i become with a math credit because i need to decide now, its my last year of high school. Please help!!! THANKS!

At 9:10 AM, Blogger Plus said...

This post has been removed by the author.

At 9:12 AM, Blogger Plus said...

To gain a qualification for teaching primary in the UK, you need a grade C or above for your GCSE maths. For more information see the Training and Development Agency for Schools (TDA) website.

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April 23, 2009
Thursday, April 23, 2009

On Friday the 13th, in April 2029, the asteroid Apophis will pass close enough to the Earth to be viewed with the naked eye. This will be an exciting event for stargazers, but for a short time in 2004 there was concern that this event would be cataclysmic. In December 2004 Apophis, named after the Egyptian serpent god who brings darkness to the Earth, was given a 1 in 37 chance of impacting with the Earth based on initial observations of the asteroid's orbit. Luckily, additional observations showed that the asteroid would just be a near miss in 2029, though there is still a slim chance of an impact during a pass in 2036.

While you breathe a sigh of relief, some people are already making plans for how to deal with any potential armageddons in the future. One such person is David French, a PhD student in aerospace engineering at North Carolina State University, who has has determined how to stop asteroids from impacting with the Earth by attaching a massive ball and chain...



posted by Plus @ 10:26 AM


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April 22, 2009
Wednesday, April 22, 2009

A Gömböc for Cambridge

The University of Cambridge today received a Gömböc. It was donated by its inventors Gábor Domokos and Péter Várkonyi. But what is a Gömböc and what is the University going to do with it?

A Gömböc (pronounce goemboets) is a three-dimensional body with one stable and one unstable equilibrium point. If you put it down on a horizontal surface, it will start wobbling around until it has safely reached the equilibrium position, a bit like a Weeble toy. In theory, you could balance it on the unstable equilibrium point, but in practice that's really hard because the slightest nudge will make it fall over, just like a pencil that is balancing on its tip. Unlike a Wheeble, whose self-righting ability is down to a weight in its bottom, the Gömböc is homogenous inside: its density is the same everywhere, ie there is no off-centre weight which forces it to take on a particular position. The Gömböc is also convex.

The question of whether a convex and homogenous body with one unstable and one stable equilibrium exists in three dimensions was first raised by the Russian mathematician Vladimir Arnold. Mathematicians knew before that in two dimensions there are no such shapes, and they also knew that every three-dimensional object must have at least two equilibria. Domokos and Várkonyi started working on the question and did not only prove that the Gömböc exists, but also built one. In fact, they're building many, from different materials, and they're selling them on the Gömböc website.

The Gömböc is not only beautiful and interesting, but also sheds some light on how a certain species of turtle, with a Gömböc-like shell, manages to get back on its feet after it has been toppled over. Gömböcs need to be engineered to the highest levels of precision, otherwise they won't work. The Gömböc that was today donated to the University of Cambridge can be admired at the Whipple Museum of the History of Science. Plus will interview its inventors next month and you'll be able to read the interview here soon.

You can see a Gömböc doing its thing on YouTube, though the video clip is in German.

posted by Plus @ 1:15 PM


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