Maths frequently shows us surprising and illuminating connections between physical systems that are not obviously related: the analysis of one system often turns out to be ideally suited for describing another. To illustrate this, we will show how a surface in three dimensional space — the hyperbolic paraboloid, or *hypar* — pops up in unexpected ways and in many different contexts.

## Archive for May, 2014

### The High-Power Hypar

Published May 29, 2014 Occasional ClosedTags: Algebra, Gauss, Geometry, Recreational Maths

The term “Chaos Game” was coined by Michael Barnsley [1], who developed this ingenious technique for generating mathematical objects called fractals. We have discussed a particular fractal set on this blog: see Cantor’s Ternary Set.

The Chaos Game is a simple algorithm that identifies one point in the plane at each stage. The sets of points that ultimately emerge from the procedure are remarkable for their intricate structure. *The relationship between the algorithm and fractal sets is not at all obvious*, as there is no evident connection between them. This element of surprise is of one of the delights of mathematics.

### The Future of Society: Prosperity or Collapse?

Published May 15, 2014 Irish Times ClosedTags: modelling, Social attitudes

The article in this week’s *That’s Maths* column in the* Irish Times* ( TM045 ) is about a mathematical model to simulate the future of society.

Our extravagant lifestyle is draining the Earth’s natural resources. Population is climbing and climate change looms ever larger. Is the collapse of society imminent?

The historical precedents are ominous. Many civilizations have ended abruptly with drastic population reductions and centuries of oblivion. The fall of the Roman, Han, Mayan and Gupta Empires show that advanced and sophisticated civilisations can be fragile and impermanent. There are many causes, but over-consumption of resources and inequalities within society are primary.

Continue reading ‘The Future of Society: Prosperity or Collapse?’

Next week’s post will be about a model of the future of civilization! It is based on the classical predator-prey model, which is reviewed here.

### The Faraday of Statistics

Published May 1, 2014 Irish Times ClosedTags: Ireland, Probability, Statistics

This week, *That’s Maths* in *The Irish Times* ( TM044 ) is about the originator of Students t-distribution.

In October 2012 a plaque was unveiled at St Patrick’s National School, Blackrock, to commemorate William Sealy Gosset, who had lived nearby for 22 years. Sir Ronald Fisher, a giant among statisticians, called Gosset “The Faraday of Statistics”, recognising his ability to grasp general principles and apply them to problems of practical significance.