February, 2016

Maths and mental health: dealing with panic

Big disclaimer here: I'm not a mental health professional. I'm someone who has suffered from anxiety and depression. If you are experiencing regular panic attacks, or struggling with depression, please seek medical help. I endured many years of misery because I was too stubborn to go to a doctor or

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Ask Uncle Colin: How do we know the digits of $\pi$ don’t recur?

Dear Uncle Colin1, Supposing $\pi$ were to start repeating -- how long would it take to confirm that it actually was? - Recurring Over Uncanny Numbers of Decimals Dear ROUND2 , Great question! $\pi$, as I'm sure you know, is a number close to 3.1416 that represents the ratio between

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The Mathematical Ninja and the First Rule of $\phi$ club

The Mathematical Ninja placed his quadruple espresso on the table; @dragon_dodo looked up from her laptop and smiled. "You're taking it easy on the caffeine this morning, I see?" The Mathematical Ninja nodded. "Yeah, this is only my third cup. What are you working on?" "Computing assignment." The Mathematical Ninja,

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Ask Uncle Colin: a light matrix product

Dear Uncle Colin, I'm working on a (3D) computer graphics course, and my notes have some equations in that I don't understand. I have a point light at (4D) position $\vec L$, an object translated by a 4D matrix $\bb M$ and a (4D) point on the surface at $\vec

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The Maths Police Investigate: The Beans Of Wrath

This is a guest post, courtesy of @Dragon_Dodo and @FennekLyra. Thanks, Dominika and Eva! It was an unusually quiet morning at the Maths Police HQ. ‘If a mathematician is a device for turning coffee into theorems, what do you reckon the conversion rate is?’ mused agent Dodo over her morning cup

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Ask Uncle Colin: An Absolute Mess

Dear Uncle Colin, I have an inequality that involves two pairs of modulus signs, and I can't make head nor tail of it. It's $\left| \left| 3 - x \right| - 2x\right| \le 9$. Please help! -- Absolutely Bewildered, Driven Absolutely Barmy Well, ABDAB, I'd normally recommend sketching something like

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Review: Turing’s Cathedral, by George Dyson

One of the key measures of how much I like a book is how quickly I get through it. Turing's Cathedral went back to the library today after having being renewed the maximum of three times; I did finish it, but only just. I can't put my finger on what

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Ask Uncle Colin: A pentagonal rhombus

Dear Uncle Colin, I've carelessly interlocked a couple of regular pentagons together like this and need to find the area of the overlap because of reasons. For still other reasons, I don't want to use trigonometry. How do I negotiate my way through this minefield? Trigonometry's Always Overrated Hi, TAO,

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Why I can’t get excited about the new largest known prime

A week or two back, it was announced that computers had verified that $2^{74,207,281}-1$ was a 22-and-a-bit million digit prime number. Cue headlines on the BBC and silliness on Twitter and slight derailment of maths lessons across the country. But me? It leaves me cold, and here's why: because of

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