Author: Rachel Thomas

Heather MacKinlay's work as an engineer has taken her from the civility of Surrey to the wild west of Australian mining towns and multibillion pound projects in the Algerian desert. And along the way she has also become a successful painter. Heather tells Plus that engineering and painting are just different ways of looking at the world, and how her work as a cost engineer is all about understanding the big picture.

Rising like a giant pringle from the Olympic Park construction site, the Velodrome is the first of the 2012 London Olympic venues to be completed. With its sweeping curved roof and beautiful cedar clad exterior the Velodrome is a stunning building. But what most of the athletes are excited about is the elegant wooden cycle track enclosed inside, the medals that will be won, and the records that might be broken, in the summer of 2012.

To coincide with the 100th International Women's Day two new competitions to find the best young female mathematical minds in the UK and Europe have been launched.

Squeamish about cuts and scrapes? Maths can help you feel better.


It is thought that the next great advances in biology and medicine will be discovered with mathematics. As biology stands on the brink of becoming a theoretical science, Thomas Fink asks if there is more to this collaboration than maths acting as biology's newest microscope. Will theoretical biology lead to new and exciting maths, just as theoretical physics did in the last two centuries? And is there a mathematically elegant story behind life?

London, September, 1853. A cholera outbreak has decimated Soho, killing 10% of the population and wiping out entire families in days. Current medical theories assert that the disease is spread by "bad air" emanating from the stinking open sewers. But one physician, John Snow, has a different theory: that cholera is spread through contaminated water. And he is just about to use mathematics to prove that he is right.

The work of Fields Medallist Stanislav Smirnov will take mathematics and physics into a new phase with his mathematical proof of the understanding of phase transitions.

Results in mathematics come in several flavours — theorems are the big important results, conjectures will be important results one day when they are proved, and lemmas are small results that are just stepping stones on the way to the big stuff. Right? Then why has the Fields medal just been awarded to Ngô Bào Châu for his proof of a lemma?

It's not just evil villians who can blow smoke rings, it seems peat moss has been doing it for millennia.

Controlled chaos produces realistic behaviour in robotic cockroach