Plus Blog

December 3, 2011

Tennis anyone? Fancy football? Whatever game you are playing (or watching) this weekend, find out the maths behind two favourite sports.


A fly walks round a football

What makes a perfect football? Find out why the ball's surface is the most prized research goal in ball design.


If you can't bend it, model it

Learn about the aerodynamics of footballs and perfect your free kick.


Blast it like Beckham?

What tactics should a soccer player use when taking a penalty kick? And what can the goalkeeper do to foil his plans?


Making a racket

Over recent decades new materials have made tennis rackets ever bigger, lighter and more powerful. So what kind of science goes into designing new rackets?


Anyone for tennis (and tennis and tennis...)?

What is the chance of another Isner-Mahut mega set at Wimbledon?


Winning at Wimbledon

What does it take to win Wimbledon?

Cricket, gymnastics or athletics more your thing? You can find those and many other sports in our Mathematics in sport package and the MMP's Sportal!

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December 2, 2011

End of year weariness setting in? Revive your brain with some of our favourite puzzles, as chosen by our readers and the Plus team!


2011 in fours

Bid farewell to 2011 with this puzzle from Plus reader, Paulo Ferro.


Prime birthday

Plus reader Aziz Inan has a question for you: Which mathematician is in their prime?


Finding the nine...

Think you know how to use the numbers 1 to 9? Our colleague James Grime puts your digits to the test.

Sock sorting strategy

Try your hand at a puzzle from the Hands-on risk and probability road show: How many socks do you need to grab to find a pair?

Rabbit and string

Buster the cosmic rabbit is playing ball with the Earth and very large piece of string... A slightly surreal take on a favourite puzzle with a very surprising answer!

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December 1, 2011

What do Caribbean steel drums, the London 2012 Velodrome and the quest for sustainable energy have in common? They all involve the work of engineers. Engineering provides some of the most exciting applications of maths, which impact on all our lives every day.

You can read all about the importance and excitement of engineering in our package Constructing our lives: the mathematics of engineering. Here are just a few of our favourites:

What makes an object into a musical instrument?

Many things make a noise when you hit them, but not many are commonly used to play music — why is that? Jim Woodhouse, Professor of Structural Dynamics, looks at harmonic and not so harmonic frequencies, and at how percussion instruments are tuned. Read more...

How the velodrome found its form

The Velodrome, with its striking curved shape, was the first venue to be completed in the London Olympic Park. Plus talked to structural engineers Andrew Weir and Pete Winslow from Expedition Engineering, who were part of the design team for the Velodrome, about how mathematics helped create its iconic shape. Read more...

Facing the climate challenge: The podcast

Some have suggested that the changes that are needed to meet the climate challenge are similar in scale to the Industrial Revolution of the 19th century. For this podcast we talked to engineer Alison Cooke, who manages a project called Energy Efficiency in the Built Environment, and two PhD students at the Centre for sustainable Development in Cambridge, and find out how engineers work with Government, business and other groups to help ensure a sustainable future. Hear more...

The only way is up: Constructing the Heron tower

Looking out to Canary Wharf, to the arch at Wembley Stadium, and down onto the Gherkin, the 700 people working on the construction site of the Heron Tower in London had one of the best views in London. Plus was lucky enough to speak to two engineers involved in building the tower and asked how maths was involved in the construction of such an impressive addition to the London skyline. Read more...

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November 16, 2011

Most of us take for granted that we can carry our entire music library in our pocket or whip out Google maps on our phones when we get lost. But few of us realise that it's physics and maths we have to thank for these marvellous inventions.

To raise awareness and to celebrate the role of physics in making these technologies possible, our friends at the Institute of Physics have produced a series of tech themed beermats, now to be found in pubs around Brighton and Hove. The mats challenge pub goers to answer four questions about technology and they can find out the answers by text message or by scanning a QR code on the back of the mats.

If you're not in Brighton, don't despair: there's a website accompanying the campaign where you can test your knowledge and where there's also plenty of info about the physics at work inside your favourite gadgets, as well as the technological innovations shaping their future. You can also follow the campaign on Twitter and take part in discussions using the hashtag #thankphysics.

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November 14, 2011

Calling all sports fans and calling all maths fans. Tomorrow at 1pm John D. Barrow, cosmologist, best-selling author and director of the Millennium Mathematics Project (the home of Plus), will be starting a lecture series on maths and sport at Gresham College in London. The first lecture is entitled How fast can Usain Bolt run? and there'll be five more lectures until the end of March, looking at Olympic sports from rowing to jumping. All lectures are free. Visit the Gresham College website for more information. If you can't make it to the talk, a video will be posted on the Gresham website a few days after it's happened.

And don't forget out sister site Maths and sport: Countdown to the games which has lots of articles and activities on maths and sport, or visit the sports package on Plus.

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November 4, 2011

Have you ever wondered what string theory sounds and looks like? If yes, you can find out this weekend at Queen Mary, University of London. Musicians Anna Piva and Edward George, in collaboration with physicist and Plus author David Berman and mathematical physicist James Sparks are developing Explorations in Eleven Dimensions, a multimedia art project based on a series of sonic, visual, and textual readings of string theory's equations, themes and aesthetic concerns.

The performances will be based on the sonification of David Berman's string theory equations and a series explorations of frequency and micro-tonality in the work of Bach and Debussy with James Sparks.

Flow Motion will be joined for the performance by a quartet of musicians from London's classical and improvised music scene: Alison Blunt (violin), Chris Cullen (flute, saxophone), Grahame Painting (cello, guitar), Mark Sanders (drums).

The first component of the project, a series of sound art performances, will take place at Queen Mary's Octagon room on the 5th and 6th of November 2011, at 7.30pm. See here for more information and here for directions.

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