Plus Blog

March 25, 2008
Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Physical demonstration of mathematical traffic model

Recently, Plus reported on work done by mathematicians from the Universities of Exeter, Bristol and Budapest into why traffic jams often occur for seemingly no reason.

Now, for the first time, researchers from several Japanese universities have recreated this effect by placing 22 vehicles on a 230-metre single-lane circuit. The drivers drove at a steady 30 kilometres per hour, and whilst initially the traffic flowed smoothly, eventually a backwards travelling shock-wave developed which forced some cars to almost stop and others to increase their speed to 40 kilometres per hour to catch the car in front.

Watch the video below, which comes from the New Scientist channel on you-tube. You can read more about this in the original New Scientist article.

posted by westius @ 3:00 PM


At 8:34 PM, Blogger Tenon_Saw said...

I've always wanted to know!

March 18, 2008
Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Happy Belated Pi Day

March 14th, when written in the US format with the month before the day, is 3.14 — which makes last Friday Pi Day!

To belatedly celebrate this momentous day, here are some of the articles about Pi we have featured on Plus:

  • Mathematical mysteries: Transcendental meditation — We make rational numbers from integers by allowing division by integers other than zero. Rational numbers were all the Greeks allowed. This left them confused — and sometimes frightened — when geometric results such as Pythagoras' Theorem seemed to imply that rational numbers weren't enough. And what to do with Pi?
  • Remembrance of numbers past — In March 2004, Daniel Tammet from Kent set a new European record when he recited Pi from memory to 22,511 decimal places. It took him five hours to complete the task, yet he had barely made it halfway to the world record of 42,195 digits set by Hiroyuki Goto of Japan in 1995.
  • Pi not a piece of cake — Ever since the Egyptians' first attempts to calculate Pi over two millennia ago, the number has been a constant in the minds of mathematicians.
  • Pushing back Pi — Numbers like Pi have no repeating pattern. So just how accurately do we know what it is?
  • What is the Area of a Circle? — And what's Pi got to do with it?

Pi Day also happily happens to be Albert Einstein's birthday. We can now look forward to various Pi Approximation Days:

  • July 22: 22/7, a common approximation of Pi
  • November 10: The 314th day of the year
  • December 21, 1:13 p.m.: The 355th day of the year, celebrated at 1:13 pm for the Chinese approximation 355/11

posted by westius @ 9:42 AM


March 13, 2008
Thursday, March 13, 2008

Beyond Measure: Conversations across art and science is a new exhibition at Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge that explores how geometry is used by artists and astronomers, engineers, surgeons, architects, physicists and mathematicians — among many others — as a means to explain, understand and order the world around us.

Built around a series of workshops, talks and discussions, Beyond Measure will offer many different ways of engaging with geometry, and many different views of the world we live in. The exhibition draws parallels between the artist’s studio, the laboratory and the study as equivalent places for thinking, imagining and creating.



posted by westius @ 1:18 PM


March 12, 2008
Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Have you ever attended a Royal Institution Mathematics Masterclass?

If you have, then the Royal Institution of Great Britain would like to hear from you.

Since 1981 the RI Masterclasses in Mathematics have been enriching school maths for 12 to 14 year-olds. Now the RI is for the first time undertaking an independent evaluation of the programme. "This is a very exciting opportunity," says Sara Santos, Clothworkers' Fellow in Mathematics at the RI, "We are seeking to further improve our already successful programme, even perhaps reshape it to challenge and enthuse our finest young minds."

If you have participated in any of the RI Mathematics Masterclasses for Young People (any time between 1981 and now), you can now record your memories and reflections in this on-line questionnaire. The questionnaire takes around 15 minutes to complete. "It might be a precious amount of time for you, but your feedback is invaluable for us," says Sara. "We are also trying to keep in touch with the Masterclasses community." To keep in touch, please visit the RI website, email the RI on, or join the group RI Mathematics Masterclasses for Young People on Facebook .

posted by Plus @ 2:29 PM


March 10, 2008
Monday, March 10, 2008

Maths and Science through the medium of song

They say that music is a very mathematical pursuit. Here at Plus, we have written about mathematics and music many times.

The MASSIVE database is a website that contains information on over 2500 science and mathematics songs. Some songs are for children, others for professors. Some are by professional recording artists, others recorded in garages. The site is maintained by Greg Crowther, who is affiliated with the University of Washington, Science Groove, and the Science Songwriters' Association. MASSIVE is part of the US National Science Foundation's National Science Digital Library.

My personal favourite science song? She Blinded me with Science by Thomas Dolby — and you can find this song in the database. Another way of tracking down science songs is by doing a search for science at LastFM. What is your favourite science or mathematics song?

posted by westius @ 3:00 PM <


At 3:25 PM,  westius said...

Weird Science by Oingo Boingo is another classic

At 12:14 PM,  ogs22 said...

An interesting webpage here -

Along with a visualisation of Deep Purple's "smoke on the water" on a Mobius strip...

March 7, 2008
Friday, March 07, 2008

The Big Questions

As part of this year's National Science and Engineering Week, the BA are running a project called The Big Questions, which challenges the public to pose their burning science and engineering questions through live events, online and via the media.

Sir Roland Jackson, Chief Executive of the BA, said:

"Questioning is at the heart of scientific discovery. From evolution to space exploration British scientists have always been courageous in asking and solving some of the big questions of their time. In doing so, they have expanded our knowledge, earned our respect and enriched our lives. We want to celebrate our nation’s innate curiosity by encouraging the public to share with us their big questions on life, the universe and beyond. In return, we will ask some of our best scientific brains to come up with an answer."

Helping to answer the questions are Oxford University Press, Brainiac LIVE!, The Punk Scientists, The British Library and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society.

Questions that have been asked already include:

  • I understand that DNA is the basis for all life on Earth - but how could such a complex molecule come into existence? Phil Parry from Berkshire (age 55+)
  • Why does different music trigger different emotions? Paige Day from Hampshire (age 5-14)

Scientists who have posted their own questions include:

  • Science writer Simon Singh (who has been featured on Plus) asked: "Computers can beat humans at chess, but which games are still dominated by humans?"
  • Ian Pearson MP, Minister of State (Minister for Science and Innovation) asked: "How much life is there left in our planet?"

You can find a list of the questions that have been posed so far, or post your own question, at: The event will be launched to the national media on 6th March. The BA is currently looking for more scientists and experts to help answer some questions, and so if you know the answers to any of the questions posed and want to help out, you can answer by posting on their blog.

Apart from online, other Big Questions are going to be answered at events organised by the Science Museum, Jodrell Bank, the National Botanic Garden of Wales, Cambridge Science Festival and the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience.

posted by westius @ 5:01 PM


Syndicate content