News

Disease moves like ripples on a pond

Modelling the spread of disease is a difficult business. Epidemiologists use incredibly complex models involving huge amounts of transport, social contact and disease data to predict the spread of diseases. But is there a way to hide all this complexity and draw a simpler picture of how diseases spread, even in today's complex world?

How to advise politicians

Science advisors to government are an embattled lot. Remember the l'Alquila earthquake debacle or David Nutt's stance on drugs which cost him his job. Bridging the gap between politics and science isn't easy. Politicians like clear messages but science, and the reality it tries to describe, is rarely clear-cut.

Maths in a minute: Take it to the limit

Sequences of numbers can have limits. For example, the sequence 1, 1/2, 1/3, 1/4, ... has the limit 0 and the sequence 0, 1/2, 2/3, 3/4, 4/5, ... has the limit 1. But not all number sequences behave so nicely. Can we still discern some sort of limiting behaviour?

Maths in a minute: Countable infinitiesAn infinite set is called countable if you can count it. In other words, it's called countable if you can put its members into one-to-one correspondence with the natural numbers 1, 2, 3, ... .
Postcard from New York

Yesterday we opened the Plus New York office, amidst snow covered streets at the foot of the Empire State building.

Get a slice of the action with Pi Day Live!

On 14 March at 1.59pm GMT, Marcus du Sautoy will host Pi Day Live, an interactive exploration of the number which has fascinated mathematicians throughout the ages. He wants to rediscover pi using ancient and intriguing techniques, and he needs your help!

Prime time news!

They've done it again! GIMPS has discovered the largest known prime number: 257,885,161-1. This massive 17,425,170 digit number was discovered thanks to clever distributed computing software that uses idle computer time donated by volunteers.

Maths in a minute: Clever sums

How would you go about adding up all the integers from 1 to 100? Tap them into a calculator? Write a little computer code? Or look up the general formula for summing integers?

Maths in a minute: Regression to the mean

Sometimes you just can't argue with the evidence. If a large sample of
very ill people got better after dancing naked at full moon, then surely
the dance works. But hang on a second. Before you jump to conclusions, you need to rule
out a statistical phenomenon called regression to the mean.

Shakespeare? He's in my DNA

Scientists find a new method of storing information in DNA.

That syncing feeling...

Climate change is causing populations to sync in different species in the high arctic, increasing their risk of extinction.

The nonsense maths effect

Stephen Hawking was once told by an editor that every equation in a book would halve the sales. Curiously, the opposite seems to happen when it comes to research papers. Include a bit of maths in the abstract (a kind of summary) and people rate your paper higher — even if the maths makes no sense at all.

  • Want facts and want them fast? Our Maths in a minute series explores key mathematical concepts in just a few words.