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 (...)

The Joyce tower in Sandycove, Co Dublin, from which Stephen Dedalus began his odyssey in ‘Ulysses’.

As Bloomsday approaches, there is merit in reflecting on James Joyce’s relationship with mathematics. He entered UCD in September 1898. His examinatio(...)

A zooming in on a wafer of D-Wave Quantum Computer

Whoever Satoshi Nakamoto is or was, the author’s 2008 paper on blockchain technology is now regarded as one of the most important developments in comp(...)

Winton Gallery exhibition’s  first  World War biplane, surrounded by a stretched canopy of synthetic fabric, curved in the form of the gyrating airflow.

The new Winton Gallery at London’s Science Museum in South Kensington holds a permanent display on the history of mathematics over the past 400 years.(...)

Ulam played a seminal role in the development of the H-bomb

Stanislaw Ulam, born in Poland in 1909, was a key member of the remarkable Lvov School of Mathematics, which flourished in that city between the two w(...)

Flight plan: the geodesic arcs – one northerly, one southerly – show the shortest routes between Singapore and Quito. They are shorter than the line of the equator between the two points as Earth is not a perfect sphere

Geodesy is the study of Earth’s shape and size, and of variations in its gravitational field. Earth was originally believed to be flat, but many clues(...)

Galileo: One of the “giants” upon whose shoulders Newton and others stood.

In 1971, astronaut David Scott, standing on the moon, dropped a hammer and a feather and found that both reached the surface at the same time. This po(...)

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