If we are to believe the latest signs from outer space, the local aliens are keen mathematicians. A new crop circle appeared on the 1st of June this year in a barley field near Barbury Castle in Wiltshire, England, measuring 150 feet in diameter and correctly representing the first 10 digits of the irrational constant pi.
The 2008 Plus new writers award has been run and won. This year's competition saw an exceptional standard of writing. The winning entries include biographies of two of the greatest mathematicians of the last 100 years, as well as articles on the mathematics of Google, ants that do maths, why we should (or should not) woo brunettes, the dangers of probing the infinite, and joining the
mathematical mile-high club...
The Fourier transform is a piece of maths that is, almost single-handedly, responsible for the digital revolution. Digital music and images would be impossible without it, and it has applications in anything from medical imaging to landmine detection. We asked Chris Budd what the Fourier transform does, and how it does it. This podcast accompanies the Plus article Saving lives: The mathematics of tomography.
Maths has long been a theme in the movies. Plus talks to Madeleine Shepherd, organiser of the maths film festival at the recent Edinburgh science festival, about how maths has been presented in the movies over the years, with particular reference to three more recent films, Cube, Pi and Flatland. For more on maths in the movies read the Plus article Maths, madness and movies.
Mathematics is used in interesting, and often less than accurate, ways. Newspapers present graphs showing apparently correlated variables, but with a little thought, some of the time you will find that whilst it looks like two variables are connected, there is actually no cause and effect. An unscrupulous media can draw connections where they don't exist for political ends and politicians have
been known to confuse cause and effect entirely. So what really is behind the rise in oil prices? Could it be the humble game of cricket?