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Open Season: Pancake Flipping

In this series of articles, I’m writing about mathematical questions we don’t know the answer to – which haven’t yet been proven or disproven. This edition is a topical one, for Pancake Day (Shrove Tuesday, celebrated in the UK this year on 9th February).

pancakesSome of the best mathematical teasers are those which originate in a real-world problem – although the problem for pure mathematicians is that that happens much less often than it does for applied mathematicians, who are presented with interesting real-world problems all the time. That’s why it’s especially nice when a more pure one pops up, and that’s exactly what happened to mathematician Jacob E Goodman, back in 1975.

Learning to play Go: computer edition

go circuit board

In a remarkable example of us being psychic (or, what’s also known as ‘a coincidence’), our recently posted introduction to the game of Go has been made more topical by actual Go-related news.

The game of Go has long been considered a difficult game for artificial intelligences to play – much more so than chess, which has plenty of computer players. A Wired article from 2014 describes Go as ‘the ancient game that computers still can’t win’. As well as having a much larger set of possible games ($10^{761}$, as opposed to $10^{120}$ in chess), Go also has highly complicated strategy, compared to its simple rules, and moves made early on in the game can result in important changes to the state of the board further down the line.

The Aperiodical’s Actual Snowflake Competition – Results

Before Christmas, we launched a winter-themed maths competition – to design a sensible hexagonal snowflake, using a square grid, which could be used to knit a wintery jumper and not a) look terrible or b) have non-hexagonal symmetry. We had a deluge of entries, some valid and others less so – in fact, we may have had at least one entry break each of the rules we set. Below is a round-up of all the entries we received.

New Mersenne prime discovered, and promptly printed out

Breaking news! On 19th January 2016, the Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search discovered a new largest prime number – we know 49 Mersenne primes, the largest of which is now $2^{74207281}-1$, a number containing over 22 million digits and full of primey goodness.

Internet Maths Person Matt Parker has responded to the news in spectacular style, by issuing a 14-minute long video explaining the discovery and its implications, as well as somehow scoring an interview with the actual discoverer of the new prime, Curtis Cooper.