Archive for November, 2015

Life’s a Drag Crisis

The character of fluid flow depends on a dimensionless quantity, the Reynolds number. Named for Belfast-born scientist Osborne Reynolds, it determines whether the flow is laminar (smooth) or turbulent (rough). Normally the drag force increases with speed.

The Reynolds number is defined as Re = VL/ν where V is the flow speed, L the length scale and ν the viscosity coefficient. The transition from laminar to turbulent flow occurs at a critical value of Re which depends on details of the system, such as surface roughness.

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Mathematics Solving Crimes

What use is maths? Why should we learn it? A forensic scientist could answer FornsicMaths-CraigAdamthat virtually all the mathematics we learn at school is used to solve crimes. Forensic science considers physical evidence relating to criminal activity and practitioners need competence in mathematics as well as in the physical, chemical and biological sciences [TM080: search for “thatsmaths” at ].

Trigonometry, the measurement of triangles, is used in the analysis of blood spatter. The shape indicates the direction from which the blood has come. The most probable scenario resulting in blood spatter on walls and floor can be reconstructed using trigonometric analysis. Such analysis can also determine whether the blood originated from a single source or from multiple sources.

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Numbering the Family Tree

The availability of large historical data sets online has spurred interest in genealogy and family history. Anyone who has assembled information knows how important it is to organize it systematically. A simple family tree showing the direct ancestors of Wanda One is shown here:

Ahnentafel-Chart Continue reading ‘Numbering the Family Tree’

Melencolia: An Enigma for Half a Millennium


Albrecht Dürer, master painter and engraver of the German Renaissance, made his Melencolia I in 1514, just over five centuries ago. It is one of the most brilliant engravings of all time, and amongst the most intensively debated works of art [TM079; or search for “thatsmaths” at ].

The winged figure, Melancholy, sits in a mood of lassitude and brooding dejection, weighed down by intellectual cares. Her head rests on her left hand while her right hand holds a mathematical compass, one of many symbols and motifs in the work that reflect Dürer’s interest in mathematics.

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