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What does mathematics have to do with nature or art? The video tracks in this album trace the origin of the mathematics of chaos and describe how the chance discovery of fractals became the basis for some real - and revolutionary - commercial applications such as the fax and the modem. A closer look at ancient fabric designs and the spiral of a nautilus shell also reveals repeating patterns that can be analysed in a mathematical way. This material forms part of The Open University course MS2 ...
 
The STEMCAST is a semi-monthly podcast released on Mondays. It is hosted by us, Jess and Elisabeth. We talk about anything, and everything, affecting us on our journey through engineering! We also offer terrible advice to students, scientists, researchers, (etc.) and pretty much anyone that asks about school.
 
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Alfred S. Posamentier's The Joy of Geometry (Prometheus, 2020) is a book for someone who has taken geometry but wants to go further. This book, as one might expect, is heavy on diagrams and it is sometimes hard to discuss some of the ideas without reference to a diagram. Also, to be fair, this is not a book intended to be read casually. To fully ap…
 
Euclid’s definitions of point, line, and straightness allow a range of mathematical and philosophical interpretation. Historically, however, these definitions may not have been in the original text of the Elements at all. Regardless, the subtlety of defining fundamental concepts such as straightness is best seen by considering the geometry not only…
 
How should axioms be justified? By appeal to intuition, or sensory perception? Or are axioms legitimated merely indirectly, by their logical consequences? Plato and Aristotle disagreed, and later Newton disagreed even more. Their philosophies can be seen as rival interpretations of Euclid’s Elements. Transcript What kinds of axioms do we want in ou…
 
Doing mathematics can be stimulating, deep, and sometimes fantastic. It can also be frustrating, impenetrable, and at times dispiriting. In her new collection of essays, writer and mathematician Susan D'Agostino shows how math itself can be a useful guide through these experiences. How to Free Your Inner Mathematician: Notes on Mathematics and Life…
 
The book being discussed is Mathematics Entertainment for the Millions (World Scientific Publishing Co.), by Alfred Posamentier. In reading this book, it occurred to me that it might equally well have been entitled Millions of Mathematical Entertainments. There may not be millions of entertainments, but there’s an incredible amount – most of it eas…
 
Euclid’s Elements, read backwards, reduces complex truths to simpler ones, such as the Pythagorean Theorem to the parallelogram area theorem, and that in turn to triangle congruence. How far can this reductive process be taken, and what should be its ultimate goals? Some have advocated that the axiomatic-deductive program in mathematics is best see…
 
There is no shortage of books on the growing impact of data collection and analysis on our societies, our cultures, and our everyday lives. David Hand's new book Dark Data: Why What You Don't Know Matters (Princeton University Press, 2020) is unique in this genre for its focus on those data that aren't collected or don't get analyzed. More than an …
 
Calculus Reordered: A History of the Big Ideas (Princeton UP, 2019) takes readers on a remarkable journey through hundreds of years to tell the story of how calculus evolved into the subject we know today. David Bressoud explains why calculus is credited to seventeenth-century figures Isaac Newton and Gottfried Leibniz, and how its current structur…
 
There are very few math books that merit the adjective ‘charming’ but Mage Merlin's Unsolved Mathematical Mysteries (MIT Press, 2020) is one of them. Satyan Devadoss and Matt Harvey have chosen a truly unique, creative and charming way to acquaint readers with some of the unsolved problems of mathematics. Some are classic, such as the Goldbach Conj…
 
The Pythagorean Theorem might have been used in antiquity to build the pyramids, dig tunnels through mountains, and predict eclipse durations, it has been said. But maybe the main interest in the theorem was always more theoretical. Euclid’s proof of the Pythagorean Theorem is perhaps best thought of not as establishing the truth of the theorem but…
 
The branch of mathematics called game theory – the Prisoners Dilemma is a particularly well-known example of a game – is used by philosophers, social scientists, and others to explore many types of social relations between humans and between nonhuman creatures. In Games in the Philosophy of Biology (Cambridge University Press, 2020), Cailin O’Conno…
 
Category theory is well-known for abstraction—concepts and tools from diverse fields being recognized as specific cases of more foundational structures—though the field has always been driven and shaped by the needs of applications. Moreover, category theory is rarely introduced even to undergraduate math majors, despite its unifying role in theory…
 
For decades, statisticians, social scientists, psychologists, and economists (among them Nobel Prize winners) have spent massive amounts of precious time thinking about whether streaks actually exist. After all, a substantial number of decisions that we make in our everyday lives are quietly rooted in this one question: If something happened before…
 
Greek geometry is written in a style adapted to oral teaching. Mathematicians memorised theorems the way bards memorised poems. Several oddities about how Euclid’s Elements is written can be explained this way. Transcript Greek geometry is oral geometry. Mathematicians memorised theorems the way bards memorised poems. Euclid’s Elements was almost l…
 
Brian Greene is a Professor of Mathematics and Physics at Columbia University in the City of New York, where he is the Director of the Institute for Strings, Cosmology, and Astroparticle Physics, and co-founder and chair of the World Science Festival. He is well known for his TV mini-series about string theory and the nature of reality, including t…
 
Introductory courses in discrete mathematics cover a variety of distinctive but interconnected topics, from the underpinnings of logic and set theory through overviews of combinatorics and graph theory, which lend themselves to equally diverse presentation styles. In Discrete Mathematics with Ducks (Second Edition; CRC Press, 2018), dr. sarah-marie…
 
Proof-oriented geometry began with Thales. The theorems attributed to him encapsulate two modes of doing mathematics, suggesting that the idea of proof could have come from either of two sources: attention to patterns and relations that emerge from explorative construction and play, or the realisation that “obvious” things can be demonstrated using…
 
Slavery and the University: Histories and Legacies (University of Georgia Press, 2019), edited by Leslie M. Harris, James T. Campbell, and Alfred L. Brophy, is the first edited collection of scholarly essays devoted solely to the histories and legacies of this subject on North American campuses and in their Atlantic contexts. Gathering together con…
 
Alex Berke's Beautiful Symmetry (MIT Press, 2020) is both a fascinating book and a concept -- it's like no other book I’ve ever read. It's a coloring book about math, inviting us to engage with mathematical concepts visually through coloring challenges and visual puzzles. We can explore symmetry and the beauty of mathematics playfully, coloring thr…
 
Hot Molecules, Cold Electrons: From the Mathematics of Heat to the Development of the Trans-Atlantic Telegraph Cable (Princeton University Press, 2020), by Paul Nahin, is a book that is meant for someone who is comfortable with calculus, but for those readers who are, it is a treat. It is a thorough study of the history and mathematics of the heat …
 
Paradox is a sophisticated kind of magic trick. A magician's purpose is to create the appearance of impossibility, to pull a rabbit from an empty hat. Yet paradox doesn't require tangibles, like rabbits or hats. Paradox works in the abstract, with words and concepts and symbols, to create the illusion of contradiction. There are no contradictions i…
 
In ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt, mathematics meant law and order. Specialised mathematical technocrats were deployed to settle conflicts regarding taxes, trade contracts, and inheritance. Mathematics enabled states to develop civil branches of government instead of relying on force and violence. Mathematics enabled complex economies in which peopl…
 
Today I talked to Alfred S. Posamentier, a co-author (with Christian Spreitzer) of Math Makers: The Lives and Works of 50 Famous Mathematicians (Prometheus, 2020). This charming book is more than just mathematics, because mathematicians are not just makers of mathematics. They are human beings whose life stories are often not just entertaining, but…
 
From an undergraduate perspective, coming from the rigid proofs and concrete constructions of middle- or high-school courses, the broad discipline of geometry can be at once intimately familiar and menacingly exotic. For most of its history, and perhaps for many of the same reasons, geometers struggled to come to terms with the unsolved problems, u…
 
How does the world of book reviews work? In Inside the Critics’ Circle: Book Reviewing in Uncertain Times (Princeton University Press, 2020), Phillipa Chong, assistant professor in sociology at McMaster University, provides a unique sociological analysis of how critics confront the different types of uncertainty associated with their practice. The …
 
The Greek islands were geographically predisposed to democracy. The ritualised, antagonistic debates of parliaments and law courts were then generalised to all philosophical domains, creating a unique intellectual climate that put a premium on adversarialism and pure reason. This style of thought proved ideal for mathematics. Transcript Why the Gre…
 
If you’re a grad student facing the ugly reality of finding a tenure-track job, you could easily be forgiven for thinking about a career change. However, if you’ve spent the last several years working on a PhD, or if you’re a faculty member whose career has basically consisted of higher ed, switching isn’t so easy. PhD holders are mostly trained to…
 
The so-called Sabermetrics revolution in baseball that began in the 1970s, popularized by the book—and later Hollywood film—Moneyball, was supposed to represent a triumph of observation over intuition. Cash-strapped clubs need not compete for hyped-up prospects when undervalued players provide better price per run scored. Q.E.D., right? In Scouting…
 
The book we are discussing is by Brian Clegg, a well-known author of books on math and science -- but this is not exactly a book on math or science, although these subjects play a significant role. His latest book is Conundrum: Crack the Ultimate Cipher Challenge (Icon Books, 2019), which should delight and intrigue not only those who love math and…
 
What did 17th-century mathematicians such as Newton and Huygens think of Galileo? Not very highly, it turns out. I summarise my case against Galileo using their perspectives and a mathematical lens more generally. Transcript I’m going to conclude my case against Galileo with this final episode on this subject. Here’s a little anecdote I found that …
 
Today's guest is distinguished researcher and statistician, Sir David Spiegelhalter. A fellow of the Royal Society, he is currently Chair of the Winton Centre for Risk and Evidence Communication at the University of Cambridge. He has dedicated his career, in his words to, “improving the way that quantitative evidence is used in society.” This inclu…
 
Our picture of Greek antiquity is distorted. Only a fraction of the masterpieces of antiquity have survived. Decisions on what to preserve were made by in ages of vastly inferior intellectual levels. Aristotelian philosophy is more accessible for mediocre minds than advanced mathematics and science. Hence this simpler part of Greek intellectual ach…
 
We’ve all heard that a picture is worth a thousand words, but what if we don’t understand what we’re looking at? Social media has made charts, infographics, and diagrams ubiquitous―and easier to share than ever. We associate charts with science and reason; the flashy visuals are both appealing and persuasive. Pie charts, maps, bar and line graphs, …
 
From the pyramids of Giza, to quasicrystals, to the proportions of the human face, the golden ratio has an infinite capacity to generate shapes with exquisite properties. This book invites you to take a new look at this timeless topic, with a compilation of research and information worthy of a text book, accompanied by over 200 beautiful color illu…
 
Today I talked to Julian Havil about his latest book Curves for the Mathematically Curious: An Anthology of the Unpredictable, Historical, Beautiful, and Romantic (Princeton University Press, 2019). You don’t have to be mathematically curious to appreciate Julian’s talent for weaving mathematics and history together – but mathematical curiosity and…
 
Throughout the Age of Exploration, European maritime communities bent on colonial and commercial expansion embraced the complex mechanics of celestial navigation. They developed schools, textbooks, and instruments to teach the new mathematical techniques to sailors. As these experts debated the value of theory and practice, memory and mathematics, …
 
As you may know, university presses publish a lot of good books. In fact, they publish thousands of them every year. They are different from most trade books in that most of them are what you might called "fundamental research." Their authors--dedicated researchers one and all--provide the scholarly stuff upon which many non-fiction trade books are…
 
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