Thatsmaths

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Leonhard Euler revolutionised mathematics, greatly extending its boundaries. He was inexhaustible: no other mathematician has been so prolific

Mathematicians are an odd bunch. Isaac Newton was decidedly unpleasant, secretive and resentful while Carl Friedrich Gauss, according to several biogr(...)

English mathematician John Horton Conwa, who was stricken down by Covid last April. Photograph: Dith Pran/The New York Times

An old nursery rhyme begins “Monday’s child is fair of face/Tuesday’s child is full of grace”. Perhaps character and personality were determined by th(...)

Christmas tree: When divided up by red, blue and gold kites and darts, no two adjacent regions are the same colour.

When decorating our Christmas trees, we aim to achieve an aesthetic balance. Let’s suppose that there is a plenitude of baubles, but that their colour(...)

The satellite-based global positioning system (GPS) has revolutionised mapping and surveying, providing a remarkably high-precision means of specifying locations.

The earthly globe is spherical; more precisely, it is an oblate spheroid, like a ball slightly flattened at the poles. More precisely still, it is a t(...)

As soon as observations are available, computer predictions are subjected to rigorous verification procedures.

Weather forecasts are getting better. Fifty years ago, predictions beyond one day ahead were of dubious utility. Now, forecasts out to a week ahead ar(...)

Terry Tao. Photograph: Graeme Mitchell/The New York Times

Pick a number; if it is even, divide it by 2; if odd, triple it and add 1. Now repeat the process, each time halving or else tripling and adding 1. He(...)

How is it that the world can be understood mathematically? Einstein addressed it repeatedly, once asking ‘How can it be that mathematics, being after all a product of human thought, independent of experience, is so admirably appropriate to the objects of reality?’ Photograph: AP

Applied mathematics is the use of maths to address questions and solve problems outside maths itself. Counting money, designing rockets and vaccines,(...)

Years ago, we were confident a computer would never beat a chess grand master; now machines are unbeatable.   It’s the same for boardgame Go.

There are ongoing rapid advances in the power and versatility of AI or artificial intelligence. Computers are now producing results in several fields (...)

Centibillionaire Mark Zuckerberg. The word ‘centibillionaire’ has entered into common usage for someone with a net worth of more than $100 billion. Photograph: Charles Platiau/Reuters

One year ago, there were just two centibillionaires, Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates. Recently, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg has joined the Amazon and Micros(...)

Plaque with the Drake Equation, at the  National Radio Astronomy Observatory, in West Virginia, US.

The Drake Equation is a formula for the number of developed civilisations in our galaxy, the Milky Way. This number is determined by seven factors. So(...)

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