Temperamental Tuning

Every pure musical tone has a frequency, the number of oscillations per second in the sound wave. Doubling the frequency corresponds to moving up one octave. A musical note consists of a base frequency or pitch, called the fundamental together with a series of harmonics, or oscillations whose frequencies are whole-number multiples of the fundamental frequency.

Piano-Keyboard-1octave Continue reading ‘Temperamental Tuning’

Biomathematics: the New Frontier

Mathematics is coming to Life in a Big Way. This week’s That’s Maths in The Irish Times (TM051, or Search for “thatsmaths” at irishtimes.com) is about the increasing importance of mathematics in the biological sciences.

Biological network modelled by Boris Kholodenko, SBI. [Frosted vinyl print on wall of SBI boardroom in UCD]

Biological network modelled by Boris Kholodenko, SBI.
[Frosted vinyl print on wall of SBI boardroom in UCD]

Continue reading ‘Biomathematics: the New Frontier’

Do you remember Venn?

Do you recall coming across those diagrams with overlapping circles that were popularised in the ‘sixties’, in conjunction with the “New Maths”. They were originally introduced around 1880 by John Venn, and now bear his name.

RIght: John Venn (1834–1923) with signature. Left: Stained glass window at Gonville & Caius College showing Venn diagram [images Wikimedia Commons].

Left: Stained glass window at Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge showing a Venn diagram. Right: John Venn (1834-1923) with signature [images Wikimedia Commons].

Continue reading ‘Do you remember Venn?’

“Come See the Spinning Globe”

That’s Maths in The Irish Times this week (TM050, or Search for “thatsmaths” at irishtimes.com) is about how a simple pendulum can demonstrate the rotation of the Earth.

Reconstruction of Foucault's demonstration in 1902 (illustration from the cover of WIlliam Tobin's book [1]).

Reconstruction of Foucault’s demonstration. Original experiment in 1851. [Illustration (1902) from the cover of WIlliam Tobin’s book [1].]

Continue reading ‘“Come See the Spinning Globe”’

Degrees of Infinity

Many of us recall the sense of wonder we felt upon learning that there is no biggest number; for some of us, that wonder has never quite gone away. It is obvious that, given any counting number, one can be added to it to give a larger number. But the implication that there is no limit to this process is perplexing.

Georg Cantor (1845 – 1918) around 1870 (left) and in later life (right).

Georg Cantor (1845 – 1918) around 1870 (left) and in later life (right).

Continue reading ‘Degrees of Infinity’

Invention or Discovery?

Is mathematics invented or discovered? As many great mathematicians have considered this question without fully resolving it, there is little likelihood that I can provide a complete answer here. But let me pose a possible answer in the form of a conjecture:

        Conjecture: Definitions are invented. Theorems are discovered.

The goal is to prove this conjecture, or to refute it. Below, some arguments in support of the conjecture are presented. Continue reading ‘Invention or Discovery?’

Digital Dentistry

That’s Maths in The Irish Times this week (TM049, or  Search for “thatsmaths” at irishtimes.com) is about applications of computer aided design and computer aided manufacture to making dental crowns.

High-precision digitally-driven mill carving a dental crown from a solid ceramic block [photo from www.sirona.com].

High-precision digitally-driven mill carving a dental crown from a solid ceramic block
[photo from www.sirona.com].

Continue reading ‘Digital Dentistry’


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