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December 10, 2011

What would Christmas be without the unlimited eating? And even though you can't taste it, there's plenty of maths in food. Here's some yummy examples.

Fuzzy pizza

Researchers are asking for a serve of fuzzy logic with their pizza.

2845 ways of spinning risk

How risky is your daily bacon butty?

Diffusion plays by the rules

Whenever you smell the lovely smell of fresh coffee or drop a tea bag into hot water you're benefiting from diffusion. Now researchers have finally found experimental confirmation for the most important concept underlying diffusion theory.

Eat, drink and be merry

Take a dive into the rather smelly business of digesting food, and how a crazy application of chaos theory shows the best way to digest a medicinal drug.

Fluid mechanics researcher

More on the fluid mechanics of food travelling through the intestines

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December 9, 2011

With the weather cold and the nights very dark, it's the perfect time to curl up in front of the fire and do some philosophising. Here are some of our favourite articles on mathematics and the nature of truth ... or lack of it!

Searching for the missing truth

Many people like mathematics because it gives definite answers. Things are either true or false, and true things seem true in a very fundamental way. But it's not quite like that. You can actually build different versions of maths in which statements are true or false depending on your preference. So is maths just a game in which we choose the rules to suit our purpose? Or is there a "correct" set of rules to use? We find out with the mathematician Hugh Woodin. Read more...

Picking holes in mathematics

In the 1930s the logician Kurt Gödel showed that if you set out proper rules for mathematics, you lose the ability to decide whether certain statements are true or false. This is rather shocking and you may wonder why Gödel's result hasn't wiped out mathematics once and for all. The answer is that, initially at least, the unprovable statements logicians came up with were quite contrived. But are they about to enter mainstream mathematics? Read more...

This is not a carrot: Paraconsistent mathematics

Paraconsistent mathematics is a type of mathematics in which contradictions may be true. In such a system it is perfectly possible for a statement A and its negation not A to both be true. How can this be, and be coherent? What does it all mean? Read more...

Constructive mathematics

If you like mathematics because things are either true or false, then you'll be worried to hear that in some quarters this basic concept is hotly disputed. This article looks at constructivist mathematics, which holds that some things are neither true, nor false, nor anything in between. Read more...

To read more about maths and philosophy, have a look at our package Mathematics and the nature of reality.

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December 8, 2011

We do love our many-legged friends and we know they're not just for Christmas. In fact, they're not only cute they have a whole lot of maths in them too. Here are our favourite animal articles.

How the leopard got its spots

How does the uniform ball of cells that make up an embryo differentiate to create the dramatic patterns of a zebra or leopard? How come there are spotty animals with stripy tails, but no stripy animals with spotty tails? Read more...

Finding your way home without knowing where you are

Foraging ants have a hard life, embarking on long and arduous trips several times a day, until they drop dead from exhaustion. The trips are not just long, they also follow complex zig-zag paths. So how do ants manage to find their way back home? And how do they manage to do so along a straight line? Their secret lies in a little geometry. Read more...

How psychic was Paul?

England's performance in the 2010 World Cup was thankfully overshadowed by the attention given to Paul the octopus, who was reported as making an unbroken series of correct predictions of match winners. David Spiegelhalter looks at Paul's performance in an attempt to answer the question that (briefly) gripped the world: was Paul psychic? Read more...

Infinite monkey business

Will an infinite number of monkeys with typewriters eventually produce the complete works of Shakespeare? Read more...

It's all in the detail

Not all the animals we love are real: some are generated by computers, but they have us cooing with cuteness or trembling with terror nevertheless. Here's how they are made. Read more...

Number crunching ants

Here's more about our six-legged friends, showing that having a small brain doesn't stop you from doing great things. Read more...

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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!

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December 6, 2011
Is maths real or imagined?

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.

How long will the future last?
What is infinity?

Does it pay to be nice?
How many universes are there?

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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

"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

"The big questions: Mathematics" by Tony Crilly

With twenty skillfully written essays Tony Crilly paints a broad-stroke 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

"Alex's adventures in numberland" by Alex Bellos

This is an excellently researched and well-written 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

"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

"Maths 1001: absolutely everything you need to know about mathematics in 1001 bite-sized 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:

  • "The number mysteries" by Marcus du Sautoy
  • "Sync: the emerging science of spontaneous order" by Steven Strogatz
  • "Strange attactors" by Sarah Glaz and JoAnne Growney
  • "Linked: the new science of networks" by Albert-Laszlo Barabasi
  • "Supercooperators" by Martin Nowak and Roger Highfield
  • "Zero: Biography of a Dangerous Idea" by Charles Seife
  • "Mathematics for everyman" by Egmont Colerus
  • "A Madman Dreams of Turing Machines" by Janna Levin
  • "The Pleasures of Counting" by Tom Korner
  • "To Infinity and Beyond: A Cultural History of the Infinite" by Eli Maor
  • "Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid" by Douglas Hofstadter
  • "Mathematics: From the Birth of Numbers" by Jan Gullberg
  • "One Two Three... Infinity: Facts and Speculations of Science" by George Gamow
  • "Prime Obsession" by John Derbyshire
  • "Prisoner's Dilemma" by William Poundstone
  • "The Math Book" by Clifford Pickover
  • "The Number Devil" by Hans Enzensberger
  • "Topology from Differentiable Viewpoint" by John Milnor
  • "Leaning towards infinity: a novel" by Sue Woolfe
  • "The Man Who Loved Only Numbers" by Paul Hoffman
  • Indra's Pearls" by David Mumford, Caroline Series and David Wright
  • Music and mathematics: from Pythagoras to fractals" by John Fauvel, Raymond Flood and Robin Wilson
  • "Four Colours Suffice" by Robin Wilson
  • "The math instinct" by Keith Devlin
  • "The Book Of Numbers" by John Conway and Richard Guy
  • "You Can Count on Monsters" by Richard Schwartz
  • "PopCo" by Scarlett Thomas
  • Letters to a young mathematician" by Ian Stewart
  • "The Mathematical Experience" by Philip Davis and Reuben Hersch
  • "The Calculus of Friendship" by Steven Strogatz
  • "A Mathematician's Lament by Paul Lockhart
  • "The Moscow Puzzles" by Boris Kordemsky
  • "Mathematics, Magic and Mystery" by Martin Gardner
  • "The housekeeper and the professor" by Yoko Ogawa
  • "Uncle Petros and Goldbach's conjecture" by Apostolos Doxiadis
  • "Logicomix" by Apostolos Doxiadis and Christos Papadimitriou
  • "A Mathematician's Apology" by G. H. Hardy
  • "Flatland" by Edwin Abbott Abbott
  • "Statistics without tears" by Derek Rowntree
  • "Professor Stewart's Cabinet of Mathematical Curiosities", by Ian Stewart
  • "How long is a piece of string?", "How many socks make a pair?", "Why do buses come in threes?" by Rob Eastaway and Jeremy Wyndham
  • "The Man Who Loved Only Numbers" by Paul Hoffman
  • "50 mathematical ideas you really need to know" by Tony Crilly
  • And the staff at Mathematics in Education and Industry have their own list of favourites

What are your favourites? Tell us in the comments below!

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