Plus Blog
September 11, 2008
Thursday, September 11, 2008
As sporting glories continue in Beijing with the Paralympics taking up where the Olympics left off, many of us have marvelled at the architecture almost as much as at the sporting achievements. One of the Olympic venues, the National Aquatic Centre or Water Cube, seems to be sliced from a giant foam of bubbles, and it turns out mathematics is responsible for this amazing structure. Labels: Latest news posted by Plus @ 8:14 PM 0 Comments: |
September 10, 2008
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
You can come out now, it's safe...Well it's official, the first beam in the Large Hadron Collider at CERN has safely made its way around the 27km tunnel at around 1030 this morning, local time. It was a historic moment, the culmination of over 20 years' work building the biggest experiment the world has seen, and one that many hope will give us a glimpse into the beginnings of the universe and give experimental evidence to long-held theories fundamental to physics. "It’s a fantastic moment,” said LHC project leader Lyn Evans, “we can now look forward to a new era of understanding about the origins and evolution of the universe.” Starting up a major new particle accelarator takes much more than just flipping a switch. Thousands of individual elements have to work in harmony and timings have to be synchronized to under a billionth of a second. The second beam was fired at around 2pm local time, and is now making its way around in the opposite direction. Over the next few weeks, as the people at the LHC learn how to drive their new toy, they will steer the two beams, finer than a human hair, into a head-on collision. It will be these collisions that will allow the research programme to begin properly. Once colliding beams have been established, there will be a period of measurement and calibration for the LHC’s four major experiments, and new results could start to appear in about a year's time. Experiments at the LHC will allow physicists to complete a journey that started with Newton's description of gravity. Gravity acts on mass, but so far science is unable to explain the mechanism that generates mass. Experiments at the LHC will provide the answer. LHC experiments will also try to probe the mysterious dark matter of the universe – visible matter seems to account for just 4% of what must exist, while about a quarter is believed to be dark matter. They will investigate the reason for nature's preference for matter over antimatter, and they will probe matter as it existed at the very beginning of time. “The LHC is a discovery machine,” said CERN Director General Robert Aymar, “its research programme has the potential to change our view of the Universe profoundly, continuing a tradition of human curiosity that’s as old as mankind itself.” You can read more about the LHC and the science it is exploring on Plus
PS. Oh and for the science-scaredy-cats, you can come out from under the bed for now, no black holes have been created as of yet! posted by Plus @ 12:15 PM 0 Comments: |
September 8, 2008
Monday, September 08, 2008
Prime record broken?Volunteers have claimed to have found the largest prime number yet — twice within a fortnight! The two new record breakers are both Mersenne primes: numbers which can be written in the form 2^{p}-1, where p is also prime. Every whole number can be written as a product of prime numbers in a unique way, and this is why the primes are regarded as the building blocks of number theory. Mathematicians have known since antiquity that there are infinitely many primes, but there isn't a formula which describes them all. To check if a number is prime, you have to go through painstaking algorithms that take up a huge amount of computing power. The task becomes easier when the number you're checking for primeness is a Mersenne number of the form described above. But still, one computer isn't enough to do the job: the eleven previous largest prime discoverers have all been part of the Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search (GIMPS), which uses the computing power "donated" by tens of thousands of volunteers to chomp through the necessary calculations. The previous record prime — found in September 2006 — would have taken an ordinary PC 4000 years to find, but with the help of a 70,000 strong computer network, able to perform 22 trillion calculations per second, popped out in "only" nine months. Why would anyone want to find the largest prime to date? For the fun of it, of course, in true nerdy-style, but there's the added bonus of a $50,000 prize for the first to discover a prime with 10 million digits. On a less frivolous level, primes are extremely useful in cryptography: because factorising large numbers into their prime factors is so computationally expensive, these factors can, and do, serve as almost unbreakable keys to encrypted messages — like the ones we send over the Internet every time we use our credit cards or send encrypted emails. Experts are now performing independent checks to verify that the two new numbers really are prime, and are due to report back soon. To find out more about GIMPS, previous Mersenne prime discoveries, and the role of primes in cryptography, read the Plus articles posted by Plus @ 4:13 PM 0 Comments: |
September 8, 2008
Monday, September 08, 2008
How long will you live? How should you write down numbers? Who's your ideal partner? How good is our voting system? And what is a differential equation? These are difficult and momentous questions. This issue of Plus has some answers, along with a tour of digital art and the usual range of podcasts, news and reviews. In this issue...
But wait, there's more! But we're not done yet!We are releasing two new podcast episodes in conjunction with the stories in this issue. See the podcast page, or go directly to
Happy reading from the Plus team! posted by Plus @ 9:14 AM 0 Comments: |
September 5, 2008
Friday, September 05, 2008
The world's biggest physics experiment is due to kick off on September the 10th, when the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN) switches on the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). Never being one to miss out on such exciting events, Plus has put together a short guide for beginners. Labels: Latest news posted by Plus @ 3:50 PM 1 Comments: |
September 3, 2008
Wednesday, September 03, 2008
Plus is now on FacebookFacebook is the online social network of choice at the moment, so who are we to buck the trend? If you are a member of Facebook, you can now "become a fan" of Plus. Visit the Plus page on Facebook by clicking on this link. Here we will update the Facebook world of Plus news, views and events. Looking forward to seeing you there! posted by westius @ 11:43 AM 0 Comments: |