The Flying Colours Maths Blog: Latest posts

Ask Uncle Colin: Integrating $\sec$ and $\cosec$

Dear Uncle Colin, I keep forgetting how to integrate $\sec(x)$ and $\cosec(x)$. Do you have any tips? - Literally Nothing Memorable Or Distinctive Hi, LNMOD, and thanks for your message! Integrating $\sec(x)$ and $\cosec(x)$ relies on a trick, and one the average mathematician probably wouldn't come up with without a

The Dictionary of Mathematical Eponymy: Ackermann’s function

For 2019, I'm trying an experiment: every couple of weeks, writing a post about a mathematical object that a) I don't know much about and b) is named after somebody. These posts are a trial run - let me know how you find them! The chief use of the Ackermann

Ask Uncle Colin: A Strange Simultaneous Equation

Dear Uncle Colin, I have the simultaneous equations $3x^2 - 3y = 0$ and $3y^2 - 3x = 0$. I've worked out that $x^2 = y$ and $y^2 = x$, but then I'm stuck! - My Expertise Relatedto1 Simultaneous Equations? Not Nearly Enough! Hi, MERSENNE, and thanks for your message!

Sticks and Stones

Because I'm insufferably vain, I have a search running in my Twitter client for the words "The Maths Behind", in case someone mentions my book (which is, of course, available wherever good books are sold). On the minus side, it rarely is; on the plus side, the search occasionally throws

Ask Uncle Colin: A Factorial Sum

Dear Uncle Colin, I have been given the series $\frac{1}{2} + \frac{1}{3} + \frac{1}{8} + \frac{1}{30} + \frac{1}{144} + ...$, which appears to have a general term of $\frac{1}{k! + (k+1)!}$ - but I can't see how to sum that! Any ideas? - Series Underpin Maths! Hi, SUM, and thanks

A Christmas Decagon

Since it's Christmas (more or less), let's treat ourselves to a colourful @solvemymaths puzzle: Have a go, if you'd like to! Below the line will be spoilers. Consistency The first and most obvious thing to ask is, is Ed's claim reasonable? At a glance, yes, it makes sense: there's a

Ask Uncle Colin: Some Ugly Trigonometry

Dear Uncle Colin, How do I verify the identity $\frac{\cos(\theta)}{1 - \sin(\theta)} \equiv \tan(\theta) + \sec(\theta)$ for $\cos(\theta) \ne 0$? - Struggles Expressing Cosines As Nice Tangents Hi, SECANT, and thanks for your message! The key questions for just about any trigonometry proof are "what's ugly?" and "how can I

Review: Festival of the Spoken Nerd, You Can’t Polish A Nerd

Midway through the second half of You Can’t Polish A Nerd, Steve Mould neatly encapsulates the show in one line: “It creates images on your oscilloscope. It’s so cool!” Because of course you have an oscilloscope. And of course you would use it - or failing that, a balloon and

Ask Uncle Colin: A factorising trick

Dear Uncle Colin, How would you factorise $63x^2 + 32x - 63$? I tried the method where you multiply $a$ and $c$ (it gives you -3969) - but I'm not sure how to find factors of that that sum to 32! Factors Are Troublesomely Oversized, Urgh Hi, FATOU, and thanks

Wrong, But Useful: Episode 62

In this month’s episode of Wrong, But Useful, we’re joined by @ch_nira, who is Dr Nira Chamberlain in real life - and the World’s Most Interesting Mathematician. Nira is a professional mathematical modeller, president-designate of the IMA, and a visiting fellow at Loughborough university. We discuss Nira’s entry in the