Published March 2, 2017
Tags: Analysis, History, Logic
Children sometimes amuse themselves searching for the biggest number. After trying millions, billions and trillions, they realize that there is no end to the game: however big a number may be, we can always add 1 to produce a bigger number: the set of counting numbers is infinite. The concept of infinity has intrigued philosophers since antiquity, and it leads to many surprises and paradoxical results [TM110 or search for “thatsmaths” at irishtimes.com].
Continue reading ‘Enigmas of Infinity’
Imagine a room – the Oval Office for example – that has three electrical appliances:
• An air-conditioner ( a ) with an American plug socket ( A ),
• A boiler ( b ) with a British plug socket ( B ),
• A coffee-maker ( c ) with a Continental plug socket ( C ).
The problem is to connect each appliance to the correct socket, avoiding any crossings of the connecting wires.
Fig. 1: Positions of appliances and sockets for Problem 1.
Continue reading ‘Topology in the Oval Office’
Published February 16, 2017
Tags: Applied Maths, Mechanics
Towering over O’Connell Street in Dublin, the Spire of Light, at 120 metres, is about three times the height of its predecessor [TM109 or search for “thatsmaths” at irishtimes.com]. The Spire was erected in 2003, filling the void left by the destruction in 1966 of Nelson’s Pillar. The needle-like structure is a slender cone of stainless steel, the diameter tapering from 3 metres at the base to 15 cm at its apex. The illumination from the top section shines like a beacon throughout the city.
Continue reading ‘The Spire of Light’
The golden mean occurs repeatedly in the pentagram [image Wikimedia Commons]
Everyone knows about the golden mean. It must be one of the most written-about numbers, certainly in recreational mathematics. It is usually denoted by
and is the positive root of the quadratic equation
with the value
There is no doubt that is significant in many biological contexts and has also been an inspiration for artists. Called the Divine Proportion, it was described in a book of that name by Luca Pacioli, a contemporary and friend of Leonardo da Vinci.
Continue reading ‘Metallic Means’
Published February 2, 2017
Tags: Algorithms, Geometry
We frequently need to find the nearest hospital, surgery or supermarket. A map divided into cells, each cell covering the region closest to a particular centre, can assist us in our quest. Such a map is called a Voronoi diagram, named for Georgy Voronoi, a mathematician born in Ukraine in 1868. He is remembered today mostly for his diagram, also known as a Voronoi tessellation, decomposition, or partition. [TM108 or search for “thatsmaths” at irishtimes.com].
Voronoi diagram drawn using the applet of Paul Chew (see Sources below).
Continue reading ‘Voronoi Diagrams: Simple but Powerful’
Published January 26, 2017
Tags: Algebra, History
The late fifteenth century was an exciting time in Europe. Western civilization woke with a start after the slumbers of the medieval age. Johannes Gutenberg’s printing press arrived in 1450 and changed everything. Universities in Bologna, Oxford, Salamanca, Paris and elsewhere began to flourish. Leonardo da Vinci was in his prime and Christopher Columbus was discovering a new world.
Illustrations by Leonardo da Vinci in Pacioli’s De Divina Proportione.
Continue reading ‘The Beginning of Modern Mathematics’
Published January 19, 2017
Tags: Arithmetic, Topology
The world has been transformed by the Internet. Google, founded just 20 years ago, is a major force in online information. The company name is a misspelt version of “googol”, the number one followed by one hundred zeros. This name echoes the vast quantities of information available through the search engines of the company [TM107 or search for “thatsmaths” at irishtimes.com].
Artist’s impression of the Library of Babel [Image from Here].
Long before the Internet, the renowned Argentine writer, poet, translator and literary critic Jorge Luis Borges (1889 – 1986) envisaged the Universe as a vast information bank in the form of a library. The Library of Babel was imagined to contain every book that ever was or ever could be written.
Continue reading ‘The Library of Babel and the Information Explosion’