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When I was about eight, my parents bought, as a Christmas gift for my brother and me, a “Jungle Gym”, plastic tubes and connectors that fit together to make whatever the imagination came up with, a sort of large-scale Meccano. My brother went out into the garden to build castles

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I am a big fan of polyhedra. I’ve raved elsewhere about the icosidodecahedron, and even something as dull as a cube is something I can get behind. And so, naturally, I wondered: is there a periodic table of polyhedra? And the answer is “not exactly”. But there’s something pretty close

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I… I… I… *Looks up Ito’s Lemma* *Reaches for bargepole, then doesn’t touch it.* I… I… I… Oh! It says here, there’s a thing called Ivory’s Theorem1! What is Ivory’s Theorem? Despite the main paper I could find about it calling it “the famous Ivory’s Theorem”, it was fairly tricky

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What are they? I thought, until I looked closely, that we had a Hoberman sphere in the children’s toybox. We don’t: we have something closely related to it, though. The Hoberman mechanism comprises a series of pairs of pivoted struts arranged end to end. Each pair looks a little like

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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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So far in the Dictionary of Mathematical Eponymy, I’ve not picked anyone properly famous. I mean, if you’re a keen recreational mathematician, you’ll have heard of Collatz or Banach; a serious mathematician might know about Daubechies, and a chess enthusiast would conceivably have come across Elo. But everyone has heard

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As I write this, classical chess’s top two players are Magnus Carlsen of Norway (rated 2835) and the USA’s Fabiano Caruana, who has a rating of 2832. Very close! But what do the rankings mean? FIDE1 uses the Elo rating system, a methodical - and mathematical - system for distilling

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Before I dive in to Daubechies wavelets, a confession: at university, Fourier series were the bane of my existence. I could do them, under duress, but in the same way as I set up the audio for Wrong, But Useful1: I had a recipe of steps I needed to follow,

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What it is Every so often, one comes across a teacher who is Properly Evil. I’ll spare names here, but I have a clear, strong memory of being introduced to the Collatz conjecture on a school trip. “Take a number, let’s say 3. If it’s odd, you treble it and

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Stefan Banach was one of the early 20th century’s most important mathematicians - if you’re at all interested in popular maths, you’ll have heard of the Banach-Tarski paradox; if you’ve done any serious linera algebra, you’ll know about Banach spaces; if you’ve read Cracking Mathematics (available wherever good books are

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