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Blockbusters of Interesting Maths

Screenshot from the show, with Christian in a circle on the right, explaining the 6-by-6 pentagonal tiling grid to his left, which is covered in multicoloured pastel pentagons.

As part of the 24 Hour Maths Game Show which took place at the end of October 2022, our own Christian Lawson-Perfect designed a maths/games crossover gameshow format to end them all – a mashup of hexagon-fighting TV quiz Blockbusters, and his own personal obsession: interesting mathematical factoids. Welcome to Blockbusters of Interesting Maths!

Aperiodical News Roundup – December 2022

Here’s a roundup of the maths news we missed in December 2022.

Maths News

The leap second, referred to in this Independent article as a ‘devastating time quirk’, is finally being abolished. This has been covered in a bunch of places, mostly being quite rude about the leap second, including a writeup in the New York Times where it’s referred to as ‘a kludge, a bain, a pain in the little hand’ (£), and this Live Science article (‘pesky’). A committee at the International Bureau of Weights and Measures apparently nearly unanimously voted in support of Resolution D, meaning there won’t be any leap seconds from 2035 until at least 2135.

A photo of Rachel Greenfield, a white female mathematician, wearing a polo neck and jeans and talking in front of a blackboard

Anti-maths news! Princeton mathematician Rachel Greenfield (pictured left – photo by Dan Komoda/Institute for Advanced Study), working with Fields Medalist Terry Tao, has posted a disproof of the periodic tiling conjecture. A preprint titled ‘A counterexample to the periodic tiling conjecture‘ is now on the ArXiv, and if it’s correct, means that any finite subset of a lattice which tiles that lattice by translations, must tile it periodically. There’s a nice explanation in the Quanta writeup!

Meanwhile there’s been a new claimed proof of the 4-colour theorem, which is non-constructive (meaning it doesn’t rely on finding a colouring for every possible map, but proves the theorem generally). Some people have been skeptical about the proof, including in this statement from Noam Zeilberger, which links to a Mastodon discussion with John Carlos Baez. (via Neil Calkin on Mastodon)

Another claimed proof – this time of the sunflower conjecture. A k-sunflower is a family of k different sets with common pair-wise intersections, and the conjecture gives conditions for when such a thing must exist.

ArXiv has posted a framework for improving the accessibility of research papers on arXiv.org – their plan is to offer html as well as PDF versions of papers. (via Deyan Ginev)

Events

Logo for 'What We Cannot Know', consisting of the words disappearing into a background of stripes fading from red to blue

Bright-trouser-wearer and mathematician Marcus Du Sautoy is offering a free OU online course, entitled ‘What we cannot know’. Find out how he manages to break the rules of reality by facilitating you knowing something that it’s by definition impossible to know, by signing up online for the 8-week course (which can also be accessed without signing in but then you don’t get a badge).

A photo of Hannah Fry, a young woman with long red hair, smiling while wearing a black top, with one elbow resting on a table
Any excuse to include a photo of HF ❤️

As part of their Elevating Mathematics video competition, the National Academies Board on Mathematical Sciences and Analytics (BMSA) invites early career professionals and students who use maths in their work to submit short video elevator speeches describing how their work in mathematics is important and relevant to our everyday lives, with a $1000 Prize for the best video.

And finally, in a rare instance of us linking to the Hollywood Reporter, Hannah Fry is to front a science and tech series for Bloomberg, entitled The Future With Hannah Fry. Sounds great! It’ll be available on Bloomberg’s Quicktake streaming service and will explore breakthroughs in artificial intelligence, crypto (not clear if -graphy or -currency), climate, chemistry and ethics.

Interview: Coralie Colmez, author of The Irrational Diary of Clara Valentine

Book cover of The Irrational Diary of Clara Valentine, by Coralie Colmez; cover illustration is a paper cut showing hands writing in a book, with π and i symbols nearby

We spoke to Coralie Colmez, mathematician and author of Math on Trial, about her genre-busting new Young Adult novel for mathematically minded teenagers: The Irrational Diary of Clara Valentine.

Mathematical Stocking Fillers

Looking for small/inexpensive items to put inside a piece of festive footwear (or, to keep for yourself)? Here’s a selection of things we’ve seen lately that you might want to buy! All the items we’re showing are under £20, and range from slightly mathematical to very mathematical.

Aperiodical News Roundup – November 2022

Here’s a roundup of things that happened online in November that we didn’t cover here at the time!

Maths Research News

According to an article on philosophy news site Daily Nous, an international symbolic logic journal printed then shortly retracted two articles, one entitled  “The Twin Primes Conjecture is True in the Standard Model of Peano Arithmetic: Applications of Rasiowa–Sikorski Lemma in Arithmetic” and the other “There are Infinitely Many Mersenne Prime Numbers. Applications of Rasiowa–Sikorski Lemma in Arithmetic“. After a discussion on MathOverflow, mistakes were found in both papers, and the journal’s editor posted:

Recently two articles on the applications of the Rasiowa-Sikorski Lemma to arithmetic were published online in Studia Logica without proper examination and beyond reasonable standards of scholarly rigor. As it turned out, they contained an irrrepairable mistake and, consequently, have been retracted from the journal’s website. The papers will not appear in print.

Studia Logica editor-in-chief Jacek Malinowski

(via Catarina Dutilh Novaes on Twitter, whose thread includes some clarifications.)

An arrangement of blue dots in a Life grid generating the digits 1,2,3 moving up the screen
Gliders producing decimal digits

According to Conway’s Life, a blog which documents developments in research around Conway’s Game of Life, on November 9, 2022 Pavel Grankovskiy discovered that 15 gliders can make any pattern in Conway’s game of life. Given a particular shape, the gliders can be set up to create it (eventually) beating a recent record of 16 gliders. (via Oscar Cunningham on mathstodon,xyz:)

Fields medalist Terry Tao reports some progress on the union closed sets conjecture, an open problem in combinatorics, which has seen rapid developments thanks to (in Tao’s words) ‘maths at internet speed’.

Other News

As of 11th November, applications for Young Researchers for the Heidelberg Laureate Forum 2023 are open. If you or someone you know is a researcher in maths or computer science at undergrad or postgrad level, and would like to spend a week next September in a lovely town in Germany meeting the world’s most decorated mathematicians and computer scientists, you should consider applying!

The latest issue of The Mathematics Enthusiast is a special issue collecting 29 reviews of popular maths books by maths educators, including Matt Parker, Hannah Fry, Eugenia Cheng, Simon Singh and Jordan Ellenberg among many others. If you’re looking for new pop maths book recommendations, it’s a good place to start!

Photo of the Earth and Jupiter in space
Check out these absolute units (Image: NASA/Brian0918/ Wikipedia Commons)

It was announced earlier this month that having discovered sufficiently many very big and very small numbers, it’s time for some new SI prefixes: ronna-, ronto-, quetta- and quecto- have joined the ranks of things that make numbers bigger and smaller, allowing you to describe itty bitty quantities as small as $10^{-27}$ (ronto) and $10^{-30}$ (quecto), as well as chonky numeros in the region of $10^{27}$ (ronna) and $10^{30}$ (quetta). The earth weighs 6 ronnagrams, and Jupiter is about 2 quettagrams.

“‘R’ and ‘Q’ were the only letters left in the English alphabet that hadn’t been used by other prefixes.”

Richard Brown, National Physical Laboratory

And in computer news, Google Chrome now supports MathML core, a language for describing mathematical notation embeddable in HTML and SVG. (via axel rauschmayer)

Mathematical Advent Calendars Round-up

Looking for something mathematical to amuse you, give your puzzling brain a workout or otherwise satisfy your mathematical curiosity every day for the next month? Look no further – here’s a round-up of our favourite mathsy advent calendars for 2022.

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