Peter Lynch

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 Joseph Fourier’s idea that the Earth’s atmosphere acts like an insulator is the first formulation of what we now call the greenhouse effect. File photograph: Lukas Schulze/Getty Images

Jean-Baptiste Joseph Fourier, French mathematician and physicist, was born in Auxerre, 251 years ago today. He is best known for the mathematical tech(...)

Hokusai’s woodcut The Great Wave off Kanagawa. The wave is estimated at more than 10m in height. In January 2014,  a wave off Killard Point in Co Clare was measured at almost 30m.

The Great Wave off Kanagawa, one of the most iconic works of Japanese art, shows a huge breaking wave with foam thrusting forward at its crest, toweri(...)

‘When times get tough, investors often decide to sit things out until the coast is clear. The problem is that by the time the smoke has lifted, the train has often left the station, to use an old market adage.’ Photograph: Pat Roque/AP

A decade ago, the global financial crisis was raging and stocks were sinking amid the worst bear market since the 1930s. Ten years ago this week, stoc(...)

Sequencing is important in sports: penalty shoot-outs in football, service order in tennis tie-breaks and choice of colour in chess matches. Photograph:  Clive Rose/Getty Images

It is common practice in science to name important advances after the first discoverer or inventor. However, this process often goes awry. A humorous (...)

Cloud computing: we could be walking in the footsteps of some of the world’s greatest thinkers. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien/The Irish Times

A walk on the beach, in the hills or along a river bank provides great opportunities for mathematical reflection. How high is the mountain? How many g(...)

Srinivasa Ramanujan, one of the most brilliant mathematicians of the last century, wrote unsolicited letters to three leading mathematicians at Cambridge

Do amateurs ever solve outstanding mathematical problems? Professional mathematicians are aware that almost every new idea they have about a mathemati(...)

This artist’s impression compares the seven planets orbiting the ultra-cool red dwarf star Trappist-1 to the Earth at the same scale.  They are shown to the same scale but not in the correct relative positions. Image: M Kornmesser/ESO

The Pythagoreans believed that the planets generate sounds as they move through the cosmos. The idea of the harmony of the spheres was brought to a hi(...)

“Trees are approximately conical in shape . . . Cones are developable surfaces: they can be flattened out into a plane without being stretched or shrunk.” Photograph: Fabian Bimmer/AP
Consider a spherical Christmas tree

A minor seasonal challenge is how to distribute the fairy lights evenly around the tree, with no large gaps or local clusters. Since the lights are st(...)

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(...)

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