Plus Blog
December 7, 2011
There are nearly 7 billion of us now, but how many will there be by Christmas 2111? Our sister site NRICH has a package on the fascinating mathematics that describes the changes in populations of living creatures — from bees to birds and complete with questions and answers. Have a look at the NRICH population dynamics collection! 
December 6, 2011
We love producing posters and postcards celebrating the beauty and importance of maths. And now we can unveil our new set of postcards promoting our project: Mathematics and the nature of reality! We'll be handing them out at MMP lectures and workshops, and New Scientist readers might be lucky enough to find one of the new postcards in the Christmas issue. We're still dealing with a large backlog of requests (more than 1000 in the first 48 hours!) for our Constructing our lives posters, but we're so excited we just can't keep the new postcards to ourselves. Email or tweet us and we'll send a set of these beautiful postcards out to the first twenty people who get in touch. And in the meantime, why not read some of the stories behind the postcards? The image on the "what is infinity" postcard was created by FAVIO. 
December 5, 2011
It's Cyber Monday and apparently this lunchtime we will all be doing our Christmas shopping online. In case you are hunting for presents today here are some of our favourite maths books. "The hidden mathematics of sport" by Rob Eastaway and John Haigh Clearly and interestingly written, humorous and varied, requiring only a minimal familiarity with math, The hidden mathematics of sport is a pure pleasure to read. It contains an impressive array of mathematical topics, much broader and more unusual than standard findings about the statistics of sports or the equations governing the motion of projectiles. "The big questions: Mathematics" by Tony Crilly With twenty skillfully written essays Tony Crilly paints a broadstroke picture of modern mathematics, focusing on some of the most exciting topics. This book is intended for people whose acquaintance with mathematics is limited to their high school years, but who want to know "what all this fuss is about". It is ideal for those who have heard that mathematicians talk about imaginary numbers and unbreakable codes, and want to know how much of it, if any, is true. "Alex's adventures in numberland" by Alex Bellos This is an excellently researched and wellwritten book. It distinguishes itself from the body of popular science books by interspersing and motivating the mathematics it contains using stories, interviews and conversations with a variety of people, ranging from mathematicians and linguists to mystics. The result is a mixture of journalism, travel literature and mathematical history that will have a much wider appeal than many other accessible texts on mathematics. "Mathematics of life: Unlocking the secrets of existence" by Ian Stewart Ian Stewart's latest book guides us through the recent collision of mathematics and biology. This is not a book about mathematics with a bit of biology sprinkled on afterwards – Mathematics of life weaves a history of biology with examples of how mathematics can help solve the unanswered questions that were created along the way. Mathematics, Stewart argues, will be the next biological revolution. "Maths 1001: absolutely everything you need to know about mathematics in 1001 bitesized explanations" by Richard Elwes This book is a mixture between an encyclopedia and a collection of intriguing ideas. In some sense, it's a plain English encyclopedia of maths, embellished with some examples for entertainment. So whether you're trying to get at the "true" meaning of something textbooks only define using passionless symbols, or are looking for a little diversion before going to sleep, this book can give you both. And here are some other favourites suggested by our readers:
What are your favourites? Tell us in the comments below!
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December 4, 2011
The auspicious date of 11/11/11 saw the launch of a brand new YouTube channel dedicated entirely to numbers – Numberphile! They are producing two new videos every week (phew!) , each about a different number. So far they've covered 16, 11, 255 and 8128 and we have four new favourite numbers to thank for it. We can't wait to see what they do next! 
December 3, 2011
Tennis anyone? Fancy football? Whatever game you are playing (or watching) this weekend, find out the maths behind two favourite sports. 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. What tactics should a soccer player use when taking a penalty kick? And what can the goalkeeper do to foil his plans? 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 IsnerMahut mega set 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! 
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! Bid farewell to 2011 with this puzzle from Plus reader, Paulo Ferro. Plus reader Aziz Inan has a question for you: Which mathematician is in their prime? Think you know how to use the numbers 1 to 9? Our colleague James Grime puts your digits to the test. Try your hand at a puzzle from the Handson risk and probability road show: How many socks do you need to grab to find a pair? 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! 