Thatsmaths

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How can we understand such enormous quantities? Popular descriptions often involve counting the grains of sand on a beach. Some mathematicians refer to the number of litres of water flowing over the Niagara Falls, or the raindrops falling to earth every year.

In 1920, a kindergarten class was asked to describe the biggest number that they could imagine. One child proposed to “write down digits until you get(...)

Thanks to a mathematical technique called principal component analysis, this can be done with remarkable accuracy

It may seem too much to expect that a person’s geographic origin can be determined from a DNA sample. But, thanks to a mathematical technique called p(...)

Prof Philip Nolan, who is president of Maynooth University, is the chairman The Irish Epidemiological Modelling Advisory Group. Photograph: Tom Honan

Our lives have been severely restricted in recent months. We are assured the constraints have been imposed following “the best scientific advice”, but(...)

Albrecht Dürer was born in Nuremberg in 1471 and produced art of outstanding quality

Albrecht Dürer was born in Nuremberg in 1471, third of a family of 18 children. Were he still living, he would be celebrating his 549th birthday on Th(...)

Peter Casey’s Theorem greatly generalised Ptolemy’s Theorem. Figure: Dr Maurice O’Reilly, DCU

Next Tuesday – May 12th – is the 200th anniversary of the birth of John Casey, a notable Irish geometer. Casey was born in 1820 in Kilbeheny, Co Limer(...)

Since the population is finite, and the vast majority of people recover, the graph of the number of infected people is bell-shaped, growing to a maximum and then declining

In its initial stages, the coronavirus pandemic grew at an exponential rate. What does this mean? The number of infected people in a country is growin(...)

Riot Games’s most popular video game, League of Legends

Video games generate worldwide annual sales of about €140 billion. With millions of people confined at home with time to spare, the current pandemic m(...)

A National Health Service ‘catch it, bin it, kill it’ sign on TV screens in the entrance in London. Photograph: Philip Toscano/PA Wire

There is widespread anxiety about the threat of the Covid-19 virus. Mathematics now plays a vital role in combating the spread of epidemics, and will (...)

In his study of hanging, Haughton considered an account in the Odyssey in which Homer described how 12 faithless handmaids of Penelope were hanged.

Samuel Haughton was born in Co Carlow in 1821. He entered Trinity College Dublin aged just 16 and graduated in 1843. He was elected a fellow in 1844 a(...)

Benford’s law can reveal highly unlikely frequencies of numbers in a dataset. It has been used to detect fraud in elections and tampering with digital images. Photograph: iStock

The irregular distribution of the first digits of numbers in databases provides a valuable tool for fraud detection. A remarkable rule that applies to(...)

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