Archive for December, 2013

Experiment and Proof

Many mathematicians spend their time proving results. The (very old) joke is that they are machines for turning coffee into theorems. A theorem is a statement that has been shown, by a sequence of irrefutable steps, to follow logically from a set of fundamental assumptions known as axioms.

These axioms themselves may be self-evident, or may simply be assumed to be true. Given this, the statement contained in a theorem is known with certainty to be true.

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Santa’s Fractal Journey

The article in this week’s That’s Maths column in the Irish Times ( TM035 ) is about the remarkable Christmas Eve journey of Santa Claus.

Santa-and-Moon

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Ireland’s Fractal Coastline

Reports of the length of Ireland’s coastline vary widely. The World Factbook of the Central Intelligence Agency gives a length of 1448 km. The Ordnance Survey of Ireland has a value of 3,171 km (http://www.osi.ie). The World Resources Institute, using data from the United States Defense Mapping Agency, gives 6,347km (see Wikipedia article [3]).

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Population Projections

The Population Division of the United Nations marked 31 October 2011 as the “Day of Seven Billion”. While that was a publicity gambit, world population is now above this figure and climbing. The global ecosystem is seriously stressed, and climate change is greatly aggravated by the expanding population. Accurate estimates of growth are essential for assessing our future well-being. This week, That’s Maths in The Irish Times ( TM034  ) is about population growth over this century. Continue reading ‘Population Projections’


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