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How many ways to shuffle a pack of cards?

This is an excerpt from friend of The Aperiodical, Matt Parker’s book, “Things to Make and Do in the Fourth Dimension”, which is out now in paperback.


There’s a lovely function in mathematics called the factorial function, which involves multiplying the input number by every number smaller than it. For example: $\operatorname{factorial}(5) = 5 \times 4 \times 3 \times 2 \times 1 = 120$. The values of factorials get alarmingly big so, conveniently, the function is written in shorthand as an exclamation mark. So when a mathematician writes things like $5! = 120$ and $13! = 6,\!227,\!020,\!800$ the exclamation mark represents both factorial and pure excitement. Factorials are mathematically interesting for several reasons, possibly the most common being that they represent the ways objects can be shuffled. If you have thirteen cards to shuffle, then there are thirteen possible cards you could put down first. You then have the remaining twelve cards as options for the second one, eleven for the next, and so on – giving just over 6 billion possibilities for arranging a mere thirteen cards.

Mathical books for kids award winners announced

mathical awards

US organisations the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute (MSRI) and the Children’s Book Council (CBC) have founded a youth book prize, called Mathical: Books for Kids from Tots to Teens. The prizes, awarded for the first time this year, recognise the most inspiring maths-related fiction and nonfiction books aimed at young people. This year, they’ve awarded a set of prizes for books released in 2014, as well as honouring books published been 2009 and 2014, plus two ‘hall of fame’ winners from the further past.

Cédric Villani’s Birth of a Theorem is Radio 4 Book of the Week

Birth of a Theorem, the autobiographical book by French mathematician and (spoiler) Fields Medallist Cédric Villani, is Book of the Week on BBC Radio 4 this week, read by non-French non-mathematician Julian Rhind-Tutt. Villani also appeared on discussion show Start the Week on Monday, talking about ‘the mathematical mind’ along with mathematician Vicky Neale; Morgan Matthews, director of kid-does-maths film X+Y; and novelist Zia Haider Rahman.

Review: The Mathematics of Love

This is a review of The Mathematics of Love: Patterns, Proofs and the search for the Ultimate Equation by Hannah Fry, a new book which Katie was sent an advance copy of.

Hannah Fry: The Mathematics of Love (Hardcover)

3rd February 2015 (hardcover); Simon & Schuster/TED

Hannah Fry, who’s a lecturer and public engagement fellow at UCL, has written a book. Following a TEDx talk she gave last spring, Hannah was invited by TED to be one of 12 speakers who got the chance to put their ideas into book form. Her topic was the mathematics of love, and the result is this collection of mathematical stories and techniques for navigating the world of romance, from choosing a partner to keeping hold of one.