Tomorrow we celebrate Bloomsday, the day of action in *Ulysses*. Most of us regard Joyce’s singular book as a masterpiece, even if we have not read it. In contrast, *Finnegans Wake* is considered by some as a work of exceptional genius, by others as impenetrable bafflegab [See TM117 or search for “thatsmaths” at irishtimes.com].

## Posts Tagged 'Algorithms'

### Fractal Complexity of Finnegans Wake

Published June 15, 2017 Irish Times Leave a CommentTags: Algorithms, Fractals

### When Roughly Right is Good Enough

Published May 4, 2017 Irish Times Leave a CommentTags: Algorithms, Education

How high is Liberty Hall? How fast does human hair grow? How many A4 sheets of paper would cover Ireland? How many people in the world are talking on their mobile phones right now? These questions seem impossible to answer but, using basic knowledge and simple logic, we can make a good guess at the answers. For example, Liberty Hall has about 16 floors. With 4 metres per floor we get a height of 64 metres, close enough to the actual height. Problems of this nature are known as Fermi problems. [TM114 or search for “thatsmaths” at irishtimes.com].

### Voronoi Diagrams: Simple but Powerful

Published February 2, 2017 Irish Times 1 CommentTags: 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].

### The Shaky Foundations of Mathematics

Published December 1, 2016 Irish Times Leave a CommentTags: Algorithms, Logic, Number Theory

The claim is often made that mathematical results are immutable. Once proven, they remain forever valid. But things are not so simple. There are problems at the very core of mathematics that cast a shadow of uncertainty. We can never be absolutely sure that the foundations of our subject are rock-solid [TM104 or search for “thatsmaths” at irishtimes.com].

The ancient Greeks put geometry on a firm footing. Euclid set down a list of axioms, or basic intuitive assumptions. Upon these, the entire edifice of Euclidean geometry is constructed. This axiomatic approach has been the model for mathematics ever since.

### A Toy Example of RSA Encryption

Published August 11, 2016 Occasional Leave a CommentTags: Algorithms, Computer Science

The RSA system has been presented many times, following the excellent expository article of Martin Gardner in the August 1977 issue of *Scientific American*. There is no need for yet another explanation of the system; the essentials are contained in the Wikipedia article RSA (cryptosystem), and in many other articles.

The purpose of this note is to give an example of the method using numbers so small that the computations can easily be carried through by mental arithmetic or with a simple calculator.

### Can Mathematics Keep Us Secure?

Published August 4, 2016 Irish Times Leave a CommentTags: Algorithms, Computer Science

The National Security Agency is the largest employer of mathematicians in America. Mathematics is a core discipline at NSA and mathematicians work on signals intelligence and information security (US citizenship is a requirement for employment). Why is NSA so interested in mathematics? [See TM096, or search for “thatsmaths” at irishtimes.com].

### Lateral Thinking in Mathematics

Published July 7, 2016 Irish Times 4 CommentsTags: Algorithms, Puzzles, Recreational Maths

Many problems in mathematics that appear difficult to solve turn out to be remarkably simple when looked at from a new perspective. George Pólya, a Hungarian-born mathematician, wrote a popular book, *How to Solve It*, in which he discussed the benefits of attacking problems from a variety of angles [see TM094, or search for “thatsmaths” at irishtimes.com].