You're reading: Posts By Katie Steckles

Principia Mathematica – THE MUSICAL

Principia Mathematica is Bertrand Russell and Alfred North Whitehead’s epic maths text which outlines the foundations of mathematics and logic, famously proves that 1+1=2 in 200 pages, and took so much re-writing it nearly sent them both mad in the process. It was also a hugely significant work, attempting to describe a set of axioms and inference rules in symbolic logic from which all mathematical truths could in principle be proven. While this goal was doomed to failure by the Incompleteness Theoreom of Gödel, the project was of great importance in the history of maths and philosophy.

If you haven’t heard of Principia, I recommend reading the excellent Logicomix, which tells the story of Russell’s life and the creation of the book; I also recommend attempting to read Principia Mathematica, although as far as I know, very few people have succeeded in this.

Anyway, the third and final volume of the book was published 100 years ago this year, and in celebration, as the title of this post has completely given away, theatre company The Conway Collective is putting on a musical written by Tyrone Landau and based on the book.

The world premiere of the musical is taking place on 20th February, at Conway Hall in London, and the event description notes that

The evening is scored for singers, dancers, musicians and philosophers.

It also requests that you “prepare to be astonished”, although frankly I’d be astonished if I weren’t astonished. Oh no, Russell’s paradox!

Further information:

Event information on the Conway Collective website

Eventbrite, for buying tickets

Facebook event

via Haggis the Sheep on Twitter

Foldable Dodecahedron Calendar made in LaTeX

If anyone still hasn’t sorted themselves out with a calendar for 2013 – come on people, it’s February! – there’s a nice example of one here. It’s a dodecahedron which, once assembled, you can presumably orient to display the correct month (or the incorrect month, if you’re an impish sort).

The best thing about it for fans of LaTeX (the majestic mathematical markup language of kings) is that this thing is written entirely in LaTeX, using the TikZ package to create the graphics.

Download: PDF and TeX files, as well as all necessary packages, are available from

(If you can’t compile the calendar yourself and want an up-to-date version, click on the Open in writeLaTeX link).

Aperiodcast – 11/02/2013

Two days late, because that is the way we rotate here, it’s another episode of our sporadic navel-gazing podcast.

In this episode we talked about:


Collaborative Mathematics: kids (and non-kids) work together on problems over YouTube

Jason Ermer’s Collaborative Mathematics project has launched its first video challenge. The project aims to allow mathematics to happen collaboratively via the medium of online videos, and video responses. The idea is that having watched the challenge video, you work with a group of friends (collaboratively) and post a response video, and then watch others’ response videos, and hopefully somewhere along the line mathematics will happen.

‘Of little practical value’?

Some mathematics, pictured here being hard to illustrate in news coverage

Some mathematics, pictured here being hard to illustrate in news coverage

As the heady excitement of the dawn of a forty-eight-Mersenne-prime world dims to a subdued, albeit slightly less factorable, normality, I have taken the opportunity to see what we can learn about the British press’s attitude and ability when it comes to the reporting of big numbers ending in a 1.

Overseas readers may not be aware that the UK’s public service broadcaster, the BBC, is funded by a mandatory annual £145.50 tax on all television-owning households. Therefore, it would be disappointing if some of these funds were not channeled into reporting the discovery in at least five or six separately-produced broadcasts across the organisation’s various radio and television outlets.

More experimental evidence for the infinitude of the primes

In a classic example of the intersection between maths and news, there’s been a new Mersenne prime discovered! Mersenne primes are numbers of the form $2^p – 1$, where $p$ is a prime number. They’re highly valued as a source of large prime numbers, since testing the primality of a (suspected) prime of this form is much easier than for general prime numbers.