As a number theorist myself, people always ask me “Why are primes so interesting?” Next time it happens, rather than spending hours proving my case, I will just refer them to Vicky Neale’s book Closing the Gap. Written in an engaging and inclusive way, it makes a perfect read for beginners but it also picks up the pace fairly quickly, so even enthusiasts like myself are bound to enjoy it. In particular, it starts by defining prime numbers, and yet somehow in the space of 160 pages, Neale manages to take the readers on a journey to cutting edge research mathematics. But enough rambling, let me tell you a bit more about what you might find inside the book and what we liked about it. Continue reading
One week has passed since the World Cup began, and it has been full of exciting and unexpected moments. We are so excited by all the action that we decided to bring you another football blog (check out our previous one here). This time we will be talking about a popular and beautiful shot called the chip shot, commonly executed by world class players such as Lionel Messi.
Football, the most popular sport in the world, has an extensive history. The game we all know in its current form was born in the middle of 19th century. However it has been reported that similar versions existed a long time ago, for instance: ‘the ball game of Mesoamerica’ (2500-100 BCE), Cuju, or Tsu Chu in China (3rd-2nd century BCE), Episkyros in Greece (5th century BCE), to name just a few, which is clear evidence that humankind has enjoyed kicking balls for thousands of years.
In a more recent era, after a meeting in London in 1863 it was established that the ball game would be divided into two main categories: rugby and football association. In addition, one of the main rules for the latter was settled: carrying the ball with one’s hands would not be allowed.
Recently I attended a quiz night at our local club. During the break the attendees played Heads and Tails. The rules are as follows:
Heads and Tails
Two coins are thrown by the organiser. The three possible (but not equally likely) outcomes are 2 heads, 2 tails and a head and a tail. Players place their two hands on their heads, two hands on their bottom or one hand on their head and one hand on their bottom signifying that they are betting on the outcome being 2 heads, 2 tails or a head and a tail respectively. Those players guessing incorrectly are eliminated and the game continues until one person is left who is the winner.
When you’re taught integration in school, it can look weird and random. What’s that curly line? Why do you have to write “dee ecks” after the function like it’s a magic spell? You’re taught that it finds the area under a curve, and that it’s the opposite of differentiation. But what’s often lost in-between learning tricks like integration by parts is a sense of what integration is and what it means. It turns out that explaining this leads naturally to an explanation of a huge area of integration overlooked in school but vital to science and engineering: numerical integration.
One important use of mathematics is to describe things that happen in the natural world around us. For hundreds of years now, mathematicians have worked together with physicists to explain, predict and quantify all manner of natural phenomena; from the solar eclipse and the movement of the planets, to the spread of diseases and infections.
But what happens when mathematics predicts something that seems too strange to be true? Is it a bug in the system, or is the world sometimes stranger than we might expect? This week, we take a look at some weird results from the field of fluid mechanics. Continue reading
From understanding the effect of aneurysms and what causes strokes to simulating and constructing artificial organs, maths has a huge role to play in developing new medical treatments. But one key part of the human physiology is the study of blood. It’s fairly obvious that blood is key to life – if you bleed too much you die. It has been studied by many eminent figures, from Aristotle who believed blood was required to transport heat around the body to Poiseuille who derived derived a simplified model of mathematical flow in a pipe to describe flow through arteries. We now understand that blood carries oxygen and essential nutrients to our cells, and carries waste products such as urea away to be processed.
On a blustery early spring afternoon, three of the Chalkdust team gathered to test out an intriguing new product: a mathematically-themed version of the classic “my-car-is-faster-than-yours” card game, trumps. If you’ve not played trumps before, the idea is simple. Each card in a set of trumps depicts a member of a certain group and statistics about that member. Players take it in turns to read out a statistic from the top card in their hand, and the one with the highest number wins all of the cards from that round. For example, a set might be all about wild animals, and each card will show a picture of the animal along with its weight, speed, life-span etc. Your aim is to collect all of your opponents cards by choosing which statistic you will do the best in.
So it’s a game involving sets, statistics and probability… seems only natural that mathematicians might want to get involved, right? Right! We recently got our hands on some maths trumps, a new twist on the game with six different sets of cards all themed around mathematics. Read on to hear what we thought about two of the sets, “2D shapes” and the mysteriously titled “Connections”.
In previous issues of Chalkdust, we shared with you a selection of our favourite “things” in maths, such as our favourite functions, shapes and sets. On the other hand, there are also some things we find annoying and very much dislike, such as bad notation, certain numbers, etc. For this special occasion (commemorating Euler’s birthday Euler a few weeks ago), we decided to spread some of our favourite, and not-so-favourite, examples of things named after Euler throughout issue 07.
We would also like to hear yours! Send them to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Continue reading