One source of randomness is atmospheric noise, the “static” generated by lightning discharges. Photograph: Julian Stratenschulte/EPA

Randomness is a slippery concept, defying precise definition. A simple example of a random series is provided by repeatedly tossing a coin. Assigning (...)

An illustration of Prof James Moriarty in Conan Doyle’s work bears a striking resemblance to a photograph of Prof George Boole (left) and may well have been based on it.

A fascinating parallel between a brilliant mathematician and an arch-villain of crime fiction is drawn in a forthcoming book – New Light on George Boo(...)

Kepler’s idea was not warmly supported by his contemporaries, but harmonic relations are known today to be crucial. Photograph: Getty

Johannes Kepler, German mathematician and astronomer, sought to explain the solar system in terms of divine harmony. His goal was to find a system of (...)

Vital subject: weusemaths.ie shows the links  between the curriculum, courses and careers. Photograph: iStock/Getty

In the midst of Maths Week Ireland many students may be asking, “What use is mathematics and what purpose is served by studying it?” Mathematicians o(...)

Tom Lehrer, mathematician, singer, songwriter and satirist, was born in New York 90 years ago. He was active in public performance for about 25 years (...)

A spiral has appeared over the past decade or so on the beach between Booterstown station and the Merrion Gates, southeast of Dublin. A sandbank (pictured) has gradually built up, driven by the action of the sea waves, and has assumed a form close to a logarithmic spiral.

We all know what a spiral looks like. Or do we? Ask your friends to describe one and they will probably trace out the form of a spiral staircase. But (...)

Kelvin’s tide machine. Belfast-born William Thomson (later Lord Kelvin) developed the science by constructing the harmonic theory of tides.

All who set a sail, cast a hook or take a dip have a keen interest in the water level, and the regular ebb and flow of the tides. At most places the t(...)

Piet Hein: “The Universe may / Be as great as they say / But it wouldn’t be missed / If it didn’t exist”

This article is about nothing: nothing at all, as encapsulated in the number zero and the empty set. It took humanity millennia to move beyond the cou(...)

Measurement of the Lough Foyle baseline in 1828-29.

On a glorious sunny June day we reached the summit of Céidín, south of the Glen of Imall, to find a triangulation station or trig pillar. These concre(...)

The Parthenon: the observer sees the eight columns of the façade as a perfectly regular array, but this is achieved by deliberately introducing subtle distortions.

The Parthenon is a masterpiece of symmetry and proportion. This temple to the Goddess Athena was built with pure white marble and was erected without (...)

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