medicine and health

When NASA first decided to put a man on the Moon they had a problem: once the Apollo spacecraft was in flight, they would not be able to observe its exact location and neither would they be able to predict it using physics. How could they send astronauts to the Moon if they didn't know where they were? An ingenious mathematician came up with an answer.

Horses, like all animals, have a number of different gaits. But how can they perform these complicated leg movements without having to stop and think? And why do they switch to a new gait when they want to go faster? Mathematics can shed some light on these questions.

Africa isn't a continent that's famous for cutting edge research. But at the University of Stellenbosch, 50km East of Cape Town, South Africa, Kiran Dellimore and his team are engineering medical equipment that will save the lives of people all over the world. Latest projects include replacement heart valves made from kangaroo tissue and equipment to help resuscitate people in emergencies.

Recent discoveries have made it possible to control computer games by thought alone, or work out what kind of item someone is thinking about from their brain signals. And that's not all. Researchers were able to use brain scans to reconstruct what someone was looking at. In these experiments the scientists were literally able to see what people were thinking. A worrying thought, perhaps. But how did they do it?

Some things are so familiar to us that they are simply expected, and we may forget to wonder why they should be that way in the first place. Sex ratios are a good example of this: the number of men and women in the world is roughly equal, but why should this be the case? A simple mathematical argument provides an answer.

cookies (istock)

Struggling with that new year's resolution to lose a few pounds? Weight not dropping off as fast as you'd expected? A new mathematical model has some good news and some bad news for you. Which would you like to hear first?

Different life forms can lead to different mathematics: eg, in many species of bees and ants the males have only half as much genetic information as females. You can read more about the mathematics of bee relationships in the appendix!

The festive season can only mean one thing... getting together with the family! You might not be able to choose your family, but at least now you'll know exactly what you share in common!

A team of nanoengineers have constructed new materials that don't wrinkle when you stretch them. This makes them similar to tissue found in the human body, so they may in the future be used to repair damaged heart walls, blood vessels and skin.

We often think of mathematics as a language, but does our brain process mathematical structures in the same way as it processes language? A new study published in the journal Psychological Science suggests that it does: the process of storing and reusing syntax "works across cognitive domains."