Posts Tagged 'Number Theory'



Breaking Weather Records

In arithmetic series, like 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 5 + … , each term differs from the previous one by a fixed amount. There is a formula for calculating the sum of the first N terms. For geometric series, like 3 + 6 + 12 + 24 + … , each term is a fixed multiple of the previous one. Again, there is a formula for the sum of the first N terms of such a series. Continue reading ‘Breaking Weather Records’

The Unity of Mathematics

This week, That’s Maths in The Irish Times ( TM041  ) is about an ambitious program to unify mathematics.

Mathematics expands! Results once proven to be true remain forever true. They are not displaced by subsequent results, but absorbed in an ever-growing theoretical web. Thus, it is increasingly difficult for any individual mathematician to have a comprehensive understanding of even a single field of mathematics: the web of knowledge grows so fast that no-one can master it all.

Continue reading ‘The Unity of Mathematics’

The Langlands Program

An ambitious programme to unify disparate areas of mathematics was set out some fifty years ago by Robert Langlands of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. The “Langlands Program” (LP) is a set of deep conjectures that attempt to build bridges between certain algebraic and analytical objects.

Canadian mathematician Robert Langlands, who formulated a series of far-reaching conjectures.

Canadian mathematician Robert Langlands, who formulated a series of far-reaching conjectures [image from Wikimedia Commons].

Continue reading ‘The Langlands Program’

The Prime Number Theorem

God may not play dice with the Universe, but something strange is going on with the prime numbers  [Paul Erdös, paraphrasing Albert Einstein]

The prime numbers are the atoms of the natural number system. We recall that a prime number is a natural number greater than one that cannot be broken into smaller factors. Every natural number greater than one can be expressed in a unique way as a product of primes. Continue reading ‘The Prime Number Theorem’

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.

Continue reading ‘Experiment and Proof’

The remarkable BBP Formula

Information that is declared to be forever inaccessible is sometimes revealed within a short period. Until recently, it seemed impossible that we would ever know the value of the quintillionth decimal digit of pi. But a remarkable formula has been found that allows the computation of binary digits starting from an arbitrary  position without the need to compute earlier digits. This is known as the BBP formula.
Continue reading ‘The remarkable BBP Formula’

The Ups and Downs of Hailstone Numbers

Hailstones, in the process of formation, make repeated excursions up and down within a cumulonimbus cloud until finally they fall to the ground. We look at sequences of numbers that oscillate in a similarly erratic manner until they finally reach the value 1. They are called hailstone numbers.
Continue reading ‘The Ups and Downs of Hailstone Numbers’

Amazing Normal Numbers

For any randomly chosen decimal number, we might expect that all the digits, 0, 1 , … , 9, occur with equal frequency. Likewise, digit pairs such as 21 or 59 or 83 should all be equally likely to crop up.  Similarly for triplets of digits. Indeed, the probability of finding any finite string of digits should depend only on its length. And, sooner or later, we should find any string. That’s “normal”!
Continue reading ‘Amazing Normal Numbers’

Prime Secrets Revealed

This week, That’s Maths in the Irish Times ( TM022 ) reports on two exciting recent breakthroughs in prime number theory.

The mathematics we study at school gives the impression that all the big questions have been answered: most of what we learn has been known for centuries, and new developments are nowhere in evidence. In fact, research in maths has never been more intensive and advances are made on a regular basis.

Continue reading ‘Prime Secrets Revealed’

Dis, Dat, Dix & Douze

How many fingers has Mickey Mouse? A glance at the figure shows that he has three fingers and a thumb on each hand, so eight in all. Thus, we may expect Mickey to reckon in octal numbers, with base eight. We use decimals, with ten symbols from 0 to 9 for the smallest numbers and larger numbers denoted by several digits, whose position is significant. Thus, 47 means four tens plus seven units.
Continue reading ‘Dis, Dat, Dix & Douze’

Happy Pi Day 2013

Today, 14th March, is Pi Day. In the month/day format it is 3/14, corresponding to 3.14, the first three digits of π. So, have a Happy Pi Day. Larry Shaw of San Francisco’s Exploratorium came up with the Pi Day idea in 1988. About ten years later, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution recognizing March 14 as National Pi Day.

Today is also the birthday anniversary of Albert Einstein, giving us another reason to celebrate. He was born on 14 March 1879, just 134 years ago today.
Continue reading ‘Happy Pi Day 2013’

Chess Harmony

Long ago in the Gupta Empire, a great-but-greedy mathematician, Grababundel, presented to the Maharaja a new game that he had devised, called Chaturanga.

Thirty-two of the Maharaja’s subjects, sixteen dressed in white and sixteen in black, were assembled on a field divided into 64 squares. There were rajas and ranis, mahouts and magi, fortiers and foot-soldiers. Continue reading ‘Chess Harmony’

Ramanujan’s Lost Notebook

In the Irish Times column this week ( TM010 ), we tell how a collection of papers of Srinivasa Ramanujan turned up in the Wren Library in Cambridge and set the mathematical world ablaze. Continue reading ‘Ramanujan’s Lost Notebook’

The Root of Infinity: It’s Surreal!

Can we make any sense of quantities like “the square root of infinity”? Using the framework of surreal numbers, we can.

  • In Part 1, we develop the background for constructing the surreals.
  • In Part 2, the surreals are assembled and their amazing properties described.

Continue reading ‘The Root of Infinity: It’s Surreal!’

A Mersennery Quest

The theme of That’s Maths (TM008) this week is prime numbers. Almost all the largest primes found in recent years are of a particular form M(n) = 2n1. They are called Mersenne primes. The Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search (GIMPS) is aimed at finding ever more prime numbers of this form. Continue reading ‘A Mersennery Quest’

The Beautiful Game

What is the most beautiful rectangular shape? What is the ratio of width to height that is most aesthetically pleasing? This question has been considered by art-lovers for centuries and one value appears consistently, called the golden ratio or Divine proportion. Continue reading ‘The Beautiful Game’


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