You can forget the spuds, as the far more important math/maths debate may finally be settled with Peter Rowlett's new Math/Maths Podcast: 5136 miles of mathematics. It's a conversation about mathematics between the UK and USA. Peter in Nottingham calls Samuel Hansen in Las Vegas and the pair chat about math and maths that has been in the news, that they've noticed and that has happened to them. The latest episode talks about something close to everyone's hears (or ears) — just why are those vuvuzelas at the world cup sound so annoying. They also discuss putting relativity to the test, the Game of Life and taking maths to the streets.
Our sister site NRICH is celebrating the connections between maths and art with a special issue containing hands-on activities, challenges and articles to get your creative juices flowing. We particularly like the painting by functions challenge, which invites you to imitate computer graphic artists by representing your favourite image using mathematical shapes and functions.
But there's lots of other stuff too, from celtic knots to origami. There are activities for all age and ability ranges — why not have a look?
We've all struggled with knots. As anyone who owns an MP3 player or mobile phone knows, anything but
the most careful winding of the headphone cord or power cable can result in a hopeless mess of tangles.
Knots are more than simple irritations, they can actually pose a threat to life. A
single knot can reduce the breaking strength of climbing rope by up to 50%. Spontaneous knot
formation in umbilical cords can quadruple the risk of
fetal mortality. Spontaneous knotting in DNA leads to faulty gene transcription and an increase in the rate of potentially dangerous mutations.
Despite this, remarkably little is known about the formation of knots — or how to prevent them. This is why the University of Aston is proposing a mass experiment to fill in some of the gaps in the science of knots and address a
mathematical conjecture. Researchers are looking for groups of keen students in schools who want to involve themselves in active data
gathering and interpretation and to contribute to a genuine piece of novel science.
Your school's involvement and effort need not be extensive. The experiment can be carried out in
school, in a class environment, with minimal resources (several lengths of string), and typically
involving an hour or so per week for two or three weeks. It could form part of a national curriculum
case study in Key Stage 3 or 4 to use mathematics to solve problems, or as an open ended
The results of this major experiment will be announced at an open public talk at the forthcoming
British Science Festival hosted at Aston University in September 2010. If you are interested, please register by contacting the Knot Experiment Coordinator, Vicky Bond by email (email@example.com) or post (The Knot Experiment, Aston University, Aston Triangle, Birmingham B4 7ET).
Martin Gardner, champion of recreational mathematics, died on Saturday the 22nd of May, aged 95. Gardner delved into recreational maths in the 1950s when he started writing his Mathematical games column for the Scientific American, which he kept up for 25 years. Many books resulted from his passion for mathematical puzzles and brainteasers, but he also wrote extensively on other subjects, producing annotated versions of Alice in wonderland and Through the lookinglass, debunkings of pseudoscientific myths, religion, and also tried his hand at fiction. He'll be sadly missed by puzzlers around the world.
Some of Gardner's books, and books inspired by him, have been reviewed on Plus:
Two A-level students could win the trip of a lifetime, joining NASA to look for life at the edge of space.
As part of their education programme, NESTA is offering two A-level students the opportunity to take part in a research trip to NASA and the Black Rock Desert in Nevada, USA. They will be joining three NESTA scientists who been working to discover what kinds of life exist at the extreme edge of the atmosphere. Together with a NASA astrobiology team, they will launch a robot 40 kilometres into the stratosphere on a powerful rocket.
Details of the competition challenge and how to enter can be found on the NESTA website. But note that the deadline is tight, due to the amount of time it takes to get security clearance to enter the NASA base the entries need to be back by 24 May 2010. But take this as a good sign — a tight deadline may mean fewer applications and you might have a greater chance of success than you think!
Due to popular demand, we're revisiting our poll to find your favourite fictional mathematician.
It is quite difficult to compile a list of fictional mathematicians. Scientists are often portrayed in films — usually as mad — but there are very few who are specialised mathematicians. Here at Plus, we have come up with a list that we think covers most well-known fictional mathematicians, although it is debatable whether some are even mathematicians at all! We are asking for your opinion — who is your favourite?
Have we missed yours off the list? Please leave a comment and let us know. We will write a biography of the character who wins the poll.