The AI making waves in complex mathematics

Artificial intelligence is used across myriad disciplines to trawl through troves of data too complex for the human brain – and indeed the average computer – to process, as well as to solve seemingly unsolvable problems. It’s posited that these technological super-brains could help us develop medicines and vaccines, solve economic problems, or engineer next-generation … Continue reading The AI making waves in complex mathematics

Claude Shannon turns us on

Claude Shannon was a 22-year-old graduate student in 1938, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the renowned US research university, when he published his master’s thesis, “A Symbolic Analysis of Relay and Switching Circuits”, in the 12 December edition of the journal Electrical Engineering. “It was a transformative work, turning circuit design from an art … Continue reading Claude Shannon turns us on

George Boole executes a search

George Boole was born on 2 November 1815 in Lincoln, Lincolnshire, in the East Midlands of England. He spent his career as professor of mathematics at Queen’s University in Cork, Ireland. Boole married Mary Everest, niece of Sir George Everest, the Welsh geographer who served as Surveyor General of India from 1830 to 1843. Renowned … Continue reading George Boole executes a search

Calhoun’s prophet rodents and the creation of the “behavioural sink”

I first read Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH as a young’un. What I didn’t know at the time was that it was inspired by a series of experiments on population dynamics from the 1940s to the 1970s. The two studies, over a total of eight years, aimed to explore the effects of population … Continue reading Calhoun’s prophet rodents and the creation of the “behavioural sink”

Do fractals exist in nature?

What are fractals? Fractals are objects in which the same patterns occur again and again at different scales and sizes. In a perfect mathematical fractal – such as the famous Mandelbrot set, shown above – this “self-similarity” goes infinitely deep: each pattern is made up of smaller copies of itself, and those smaller copies are … Continue reading Do fractals exist in nature?

Why are there so many vaccinated people in hospital?

It may be confronting to hear there are more vaccinated people than unvaccinated people in hospital – but it’s actually a good thing. Right now, it looks like there has been an increase in the number of people hospitalised with COVID-19 – even though they’re fully vaccinated. This is particularly evident in Israel, where there … Continue reading Why are there so many vaccinated people in hospital?

A mathematician watches The Number 23

Warning: spoilers, for this fourteen-year-old film, ahead. Additional warning: the mathematical reasoning displayed in this film should be practiced with caution. Arithmetic operations are used to model many physical processes in the modern world and, as such, should be used justly, unless you want to watch the world burn. I sat down to watch The … Continue reading A mathematician watches The Number 23

When bus timetables and particle physics collide

Imagine taking a time-lapse photograph of a clear sky at night. The photograph will be filled with circular arcs of light that reflect the motion of the stars in the sky as the Earth rotates around its axis. These paths have been the subject of human wonder since the time of ancient civilisations, and our … Continue reading When bus timetables and particle physics collide

John Maynard Keynes figures the odds

In his 1979 book The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams introduced the concept of the Infinite Improbability Drive, “a wonderful new method of crossing vast interstellar distances in a mere nothingth of a second without all that tedious mucking about in hyperspace”. Adams described the drive in operation: They plunged through heavy walls … Continue reading John Maynard Keynes figures the odds

Maths, encryption, and quantum computing

Are you worried about someone listening into your calls, reading your emails, or watching your video chats? You’re not alone. The internet has changed the face of communication and how communication can be stolen, spied upon or manipulated, and it always gets harder to protect ourselves as technology evolves. This becomes even more difficult as … Continue reading Maths, encryption, and quantum computing

A new angle on ancient trigonometry

This article first appeared in Cosmos Weekly on 6 August 2021. For more stories like this, subscribe to Cosmos Weekly. For some people, the word “trigonometry” conjures up images of right-angled triangles, or maybe even our old friends sine, cosine and tangent. And that may mean tears of blood, as “trigonometry” is a trigger for … Continue reading A new angle on ancient trigonometry