## News from the world of Maths

We came across the excellent Math Encouters Blog through their post Dimensional Analysis and Olympic Rowing, a response to a *New Scientist* article by *Plus* author, John Barrow.

Math Encounters is about those problems we might encounter any day where a little bit of math can really help.

Ah the humble triangle. This simple shape is one of the first we ever learn. But perhaps you didn't realise just how important triangles are...

We like to think of the human brain as special, but as we reported on *Plus* last year, it has quite a lot in common with worm brains and even with high-performance information processing systems. But how does it compare to online social networks? In a recent lecture the psychiatrist Ed Bullmore put this question to the test.

With the day of the referendum on the UK voting system drawing nearer, Tony Crilly uses a toy example to compare the first past the post, AV and Condorcet voting systems, and revisits a famous mathematical theorem which shows that there is nothing obvious about voting.

*Plus*is going to find it. But to know where to start, we need your help: we'd like to know which of the Olympic sports you'd most like to see covered in

*Plus*. So please vote below — you can choose up to three sports. We'll do our best to cover your favourite sports in the run-up to London 2012 and our coverage will also be shared by our Olympic project Maths & sport: Countdown to the games

Topologists famously think that a doughnut is the same as a coffee cup because one can be deformed into the other without tearing or cutting. In other words, topology doesn't care about exact measurements of quantities like lengths, angles and areas. Instead, it looks only at the overall shape of an object, considering two objects to be the same as long as you can morph one into the other without breaking it. But how do you work with such a slippery concept? One useful tool is what's called the fundamental group of a shape.

Last week leading researchers in sports technology met at the Royal Academy of Engineering in London to demonstrate just how far their field has come over recent years. The changes they make to athletes' equipment and clothes may only make a tiny difference to their performance, but once they're added up they can mean the difference between gold and silver.