How many people died? It's one of the first questions asked in a war or violent conflict, but it's one of the hardest to answer. In the chaos of war many deaths go unrecorded and all sides have an interest in distorting the figures. The best we can do is come up with estimates, but the trouble is that different statistical methods for doing this can produce vastly different results . So how do we know how different methods compare?
Plants are amazingly good at something that is still flummoxing
us humans in our quest for sustainable energy sources: turning sunlight
into energy in an efficient way. Around 100 bilions tons of biomass
are produced annually through photosynthesis. The question is, how
exacty do plants do it?
Yesterday's refusal by the UK government to posthumously pardon Alan Turing makes sad news for maths, computer science and the fight against discrimination. But even if symbolic gestures are, symbolically, being rebuffed, at least Turing's most important legacy — the scientific one — is going stronger than ever. An example is this week's announcement that scientists have devised a biological computer, based on an idea first described by Turing in the 1930s.
How does Olympic success correlate with a nation's GNP? How does the location of the Olympics affect the chance of record breaking? How can simple statistics help us understand the likelihood of winning streaks and the chance that an innocent athlete will fail a drugs test? What events should an ambitious nation target as the "easiest" in which to win Olympic medals. John D. Barrow will explore these question and more in a free public lecture at Gresham College in London tomorrow, 17th January 2012.
In the corner of the garden between the Centre of Mathematical Sciences and the Isaac Newton Institute in Cambridge, sits a reminder of our ongoing quest to understand gravity: an apple tree that was taken as a cutting from the tree at Newton's birthplace, the tree that is said to have inspired his theory of gravity. Newton's theory was extended to the cosmological scales by Einstein's theory of general relativity – but can supergravity explain how gravity works in the quantum world?