The counting numbers that we learn as children are so familiar that using them is second nature. They bear the appropriate name **natural numbers**. From then on, names of numbers become less and less apposite.

### Venn Again’s Awake

Published September 22, 2016 Occasional Leave a CommentTags: Graph Theory, Topology

We wrote about the basic properties of Venn diagrams in an earlier post. Now we take a deeper look. John Venn, a logician and philosopher, born in Hull, Yorkshire in 1834, introduced the diagrams in a paper in 1880 and in his book *Symbolic Logic*, published one year later. The diagrams were used long before Venn’s paper, but he formalized and popularized them. He used them as logical diagrams: the interior of each set means the truth of a particular proposition. Unions and intersections of sets correspond to the logical operators OR and AND.

### The next Hamilton

Published September 15, 2016 Irish Times Leave a CommentTags: Hamilton, History, Ireland

William Rowan Hamilton was Ireland’s greatest mathematician. His name is heard thousands of times every day throughout the world when researchers use the Hamiltonian function that encapsulates the dynamics of a vast range of physical systems. He achieved fame early in life and remains one of the all-time great scientists. [TM099, or search for “thatsmaths” at irishtimes.com].

### Heron’s Theorem: a Tool for Surveyors

Published September 8, 2016 Occasional Leave a CommentTags: Geometry

Heron was one of the great Greek mathematicians of Alexandria, following in the tradition of Euclid, Archimedes, Eratosthenes and Apollonius. He lived in the first century, from about AD 10 to AD 70. His interests were in practical rather than theoretical mathematics and he wrote on measurement, mechanics and engineering. He devised a steam-powered device and a wind-wheel that operated an organ. He is regarded as the greatest experimenter of antiquity, but it is for a theorem in pure geometry that mathematicians remember him today.

### The Tunnel of Eupalinos in Samos

Published September 1, 2016 Irish Times Leave a CommentTags: Geometry, Pythagoras

The tunnel of Eupalinos on the Greek island of Samos, over one kilometre in length, is one of the greatest engineering achievements of the ancient world [TM098, or search for “thatsmaths” at irishtimes.com].

Approximate course of the tunnel of Eupalinos in Samos.

It is well-known that an ellipse is the locus of all points such that the sum of their distances from two fixed points, the foci, is constant. Thus, a gardener may map out an elliptical flower-bed by driving two stakes into the ground, looping a rope around them and pulling it taut with a pointed stick, tracing out a curve on the ground.

### Recreational Mathematics is Fun

Published August 18, 2016 Irish Times Leave a CommentTags: Recreational Maths

We all love music, beautiful paintings and great literature without being trained musicians, talented artists or accomplished writers. It is the same with mathematics: we can enjoy the elegance of brilliant logical arguments and appreciate the beauty of mathematical structures and symmetries without being skilled creators of new theorems. [See TM097, or search for “thatsmaths” at irishtimes.com].