League tables are controversial and for good reason. Few things are simple enough to be measured by a single outcome like, for example, the number of exam passes or successful heart operations. But even if we do accept a single yardstick, we haven't yet reckoned with chance, which by itself can produce apparent patterns to delight any tabloid editor.
Winner of the schools category. Dice are invaluable to many games, especially gambling games, but instead of playing with ordinary 1-6 numbered dice here are two interesting alternatives - with a twist!
Did you know that you can't average averages? Or that Paris is rainier than London ... but it rains more in London than in Paris? Andrew Stickland explores the dangers that face the unwary when using a single number to summarise complex data.
A biologist has developed a blood test for detecting a certain minor abnormality in infants. Obviously if you have blood samples from 100 children, you could find out which children are affected by running 100 separate tests. But mathematicians are never satisfied by the obvious answer. Keith Ball uses information theory to explain how to cut down the number of tests significantly, by
pooling samples of blood.
Human beings are famously prone to error, and proof-readers are, after all, only human. But who picks up the errors a proof-reader misses? John D. Barrow challenges readers to estimate the errors that aren't found from the errors that are.