The Flying Colours Maths Blog: Latest posts

Middle children

At an academic conference; 22 people in the room. Speaker asks who is a middle child. There is only one in the entire group - him. Striking (if anecdotal) confirmation of stereotypes about birth order. — Leigh Caldwell (@leighblue) December 14, 2018 As a loyal listener to More or Less,

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Big Internet Math-Off: My first pitch is live!

A quick extra post today: I’m in the Big Internet Math-Off, which decides who will become the World’s Most Interesting Mathematician of 2019. My first group match is today, against @kyledevans, and I’ve done a video for it! Go over to the Ap’, have a look at the pitches, and

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Ask Uncle Colin: Some Symmetric Algebra

Dear Uncle Colin, If I know that $a+b+c = 0$, how can I show that $(2a-b)^3 + (2b-c)^3 + (2c-a)^3 = 3(2a-b)(2b-c)(2c-a)$? - Something You Might Merrily Explain? Thanks! Regards! Yippee! Hi, SYMMETRY, and thanks for your message! As usual, there are myriad ways to attack this, of which I

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The Dictionary of Mathematical Eponymy: Sophie Germain primes

What are they? A Sophie Germain prime is a prime such that $2p+1$ is also prime - for example, 23 is a Sophie Germain prime since 47 is also prime. The largest known Sophie Germain prime has close to 400,000 digits; it is conjectured that there are infinitely many such

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Ask Uncle Colin: A Cosine Proof

Dear Uncle Colin How would you prove that $\cos(2x) > 1 - 2x^2$ for $x > 0$? - Can’t Obviously See It, Need Explanation Hi, COSINE, and thanks for your message! I’d start by noting that as soon as $x > 1$, the right hand side is smaller than -1,

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The Fundamental Theorem of Countdown

I grew up with Countdown as part of my diet. I had a crush on Carol Vorderman (before she went all advertisey and weird). I loved the numbers game, obviously – although I still have some slight resentment that Ian Scarrott was class champion rather than me. A few years

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Ask Uncle Colin: A Modest Inheritance

Dear Uncle Colin, My six siblings and I have inherited a fortune of £$10^{10} + 10^{(10^2)} + \dots 10^{(10^{10})}$, to be divided evenly between us. However, we’re a very squabbly family, so we want to know how much money will be left over once it’s divided up. Can you help?

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A Challenge to the Mathematical Ninja

“I beg your pardon?!” yelled the Mathematical Ninja. The terribly well-dressed gentleman stood his ground. “I said, sensei, I would work $0.8^{10}$ out differently.” A sarcastic laugh. “This, I have to see!” “Well, $8^{10} = 2^{30}$, which is about $10^{9}$.” “About.” “Obviously, we can do better with the binomial: $2^{10}$

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Wrong, But Useful: Episode 68

In this month’s thrilling installment of Wrong, But Useful, we’re joined by @c_j_smith, who is Calvin Smith in real life. We discuss… Number of the Podcast: 5 Are Fish and Chip shop owners good at maths? Two maths puns and a maths joke Are there ‘popular’ books that ‘lead you

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Ask Uncle Colin: Consecutiveness

Dear Uncle Colin, Can there be two or more consecutive irrational numbers? - Between A Number And Consecutive… Huh? Hi, BANACH, and thanks for your message! We… have a problem here. When you’re dealing with integers, consecutive is really neatly defined: every number has a single successor, a number that’s

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