"Cooking," said my friend Liz in a recent Facebook post, "is one of the activities where maths is most useful in my everyday life." She added this picture: I've got several reasons for wanting to share this. 1. It's pretty much a model answer Imagine you're in a GCSE exam,

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Posted in ask uncle colin

Dear Uncle Colin, I need to find the largest solution to $e^x + \sin(x)=0$ and I don't really know where to start. Any ideas? - Some Options Look Virtually Equal Hi, SOLVE, and thanks for your message! That is something we in the trade call 'not a very nice equation

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Posted in dialogue

Yes I count how many women's voices I hear in your podcast. — Rose Eveleth ▷▷ (@roseveleth) October 31, 2017 So do we. We are aware of, and unhappy about, the predominance of heterosexual, cisgendered white men in mathematics, and we want to play a part in addressing that. Since

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Posted in ask uncle colin

Dear Uncle Colin, I keep being told my work needs to be tidier, but I'm not really sure how to go about that. Do you have any suggestions? - My Exercises Skew Scruffy Hello, MESS, and thanks for your message. I totally feel your pain. In honesty, this is like

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Posted in in praise of...

"It is like a cave that seemed to be absolutely sparkling with jewels. Maths glittered like a Christmas tree at me." - Amanda Spielman, at the Education Select Committee, October 30th 2017 What an image. What an image. Caves are dark, and cold, and slightly frightening, but buried deep within,

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Posted in ask uncle colin

Dear Uncle Colin, Does the Law Of Large Numbers contradict the fact that the Gambler's Fallacy is a fallacy? - Got A Monkey Backing Liverpool In November's Games Hi, GAMBLING, and thanks for your message! The short answer is: no. I imagine you want a bit more detail than that,

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Posted in in praise of...

The summer of 2003 was a glorious one in Fife: blazing sunshine, warm-but-not-too-warm, a lovely fresh breeze blowing in off of the North Sea. At least, I'm told it was glorious. I was stuck in room 226, preparing two versions of my PhD thesis as my supervisor had decided a

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Posted in ask uncle colin, trigonometry

Dear Uncle Colin, I have a triangle. All I know is that its angles, $\alpha$, $\beta$ and $\gamma$, satisfy $\cos(\alpha)=\frac{1}{4}$ and $\gamma = 30º$ - and I have to find $\tan(\beta)$. Help! - Can't Obviously See It, Need Explanation Hi, COSINE, and thanks for your message! This is one that

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Posted in podcasts

Sue de Pomerai joins Colin and Dave for this month's episode of Wrong, But Useful. We discuss: Her work for FMSP and MEI and, previously as a teacher Sue's alter ego, Ada Lovelace, and getting more young women into maths Colin writes books: he mentions Cracking Mathematics and some good

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Posted in geek pride, integration

Once upon a time1, @dragon_dodo asked me to help with: $\int_{- \piby 2}^{\piby 2} \frac{1}{2007^x+1} \frac{\sin^{2008}(x)}{\sin^{2008}(x)+\cos^{2008}(x)} \dx$. Heaven - or the other place - only knows where she got that thing from. Where do you even begin? My usual approach when I don't know where to start is to start

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