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Hipsters are so mainstream now that they’re the subject of mathematical papers. Jonathan Touboul, a mathematical neuroscientist from the Collège de France, claims to have answered one of the great mysteries…

The US Social Security system has been heading toward insolvency for decades, with the program now projected to run a 25% deficit by a little after 2030, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Despite…

It may sound overly simple, but just five processes can define us as animals: eating, metabolism, reproduction, dispersal and death. They might not seem like much, but, thanks to a mathematical model from…

The four winners of the 2014 Fields medals – the most prestigious prizes for mathematics – were announced today, including the first female and first Latin American recipients of the 78-year-old prize…

What makes people happy? Finding a definitive answer to this question could certainly make someone very rich (butwhether that would in turn make them happy is another matter). The problem is that happiness…

The British Chancellor George Osborne recently refused to answer a simple times table question posed to him by seven-year-old school boy Samuel Reddings. Osborne was asked the question 7x8, but declined…

AUSTRALIA 2025: How will science address the challenges of the future? In collaboration with Australia’s chief scientist Ian Chubb, we’re asking how each science discipline will contribute to Australia…

That the Malaysian government, with the help of the UK’s INMARSAT, was able to dramatically narrow down the search area for flight MH370, made it seem much more likely that the wreckage of the plane might…

The number pi (π = 3.14159265358979323846…), unique among the pantheon of mathematical constants, captures the fascination of the public and professional mathematicians. Three years ago one of the authors…

It’s been said that in a city, you’re never more than two metres away from a rat. But it seems more likely that you’re never more than two metres from someone playing the puzzle game Candy Crush Saga…

AUSTRALIA 2025: How will science address the challenges of the future? In collaboration with Australia’s chief scientist Ian Chubb, we’re asking how each science discipline will contribute to Australia…

Our future in science, technology and engineering relies on a foundation and understanding of mathematics. And while it is pleasing to see a growth in interest in our advanced mathematics course at the…

Take a set of chess pieces and throw them all away except for one knight. Place the knight on any one of the 64 squares of a chess board. Can you make 63 legal moves so that you visit every square on the…

Students who are ill-prepared in mathematics are entering university and creating challenges for mathematics departments. There are lots of ideas out there on what to do about this but little evidence…

One of the most magical aspects of mathematics is the ability for complex and intricate structures to emerge from the simplest of rules. Few mathematical objects are simpler to create – and few weave such…

What do the façades of the National Gallery in London’s Trafalgar Square and the Sydney Opera House in Australia have in common? Most people would suggest the two buildings have few similarities – the…

Intelligence is a very difficult concept and, until recently, no one has succeeded in giving it a satisfactory formal definition. Most researchers have given up grappling with the notion of intelligence…

In the spirit of the current world championship bout between Norwegian grandmaster Magnus Carlsen and Indian grandmaster Viswanathan Anand, we should seriously consider the role of chess in how young students…

The Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science recognise excellence in science and science teaching. This year, we asked three prizewinners to reflect on their work and factors that influenced their careers…

Recently, as a community ambassador for ANU Student Equity, I took to a local secondary school to talk maths with a small group of students. The goal? To give them an enjoyable mathematical experience…

How many people do you have to put into a room before you are guaranteed that at least two of them share a birthday? We all know and love the blissful feeling of winning an argument. Well, trust me, that’s…

We all know someone who gets the jitters when they have to make a speech, or breaks out in a cold sweat at the mere thought of being in an enclosed space. That person might even be you. But do you know…

Mathematics may not be the first thing your mind turns to when you are caught in a traffic jam. Yet mathematics holds the key to understanding how traffic congestion develops, and how to prevent it. Perhaps…

The game show host adjusts his bow tie and flashes you an oh-so-wicked smile as he brings your attention to three closed doors. “Behind one of these doors is the prize of your dreams!” he announces excitedly…

In recent weeks, two truly major results have been announced in the realm of (analytic) number theory, namely the mathematics of integers in general and of prime numbers in particular. Number theory, as…

Last week we learned a famous 2010 academic paper, relied on by political big-hitters to bolster arguments for austerity cuts, contained significant errors; and that those errors came down to misuse of…

A couple of days ago on The Conversation, I set myself up with a task: to defend the usefulness of so-called “useless” maths. Today, that defence continues, with a look at the RSA algorithm. I finished…

I once made the mistake of asking a mathematician why he devoted his whole life to maths. “Because it’s fun!” he replied wildly, his flabby cheeks beaming with childlike excitement. “Ah, of course,” I…

So, the Higgs boson … Last week, researchers at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) finally announced the new particle discovered last summer is indeed a Higgs boson, a particle predicted…

We assess risk every day. But very few of us receive any formal training in the requisite mathematics and statistics, and, partly as a result, poor decisions are made, both by individuals and governmental…

If you believe the hype, the end of the world has finally come. The Mayan calendar’s “long count” began on 13 August 3114 BCE and will end today on 21 December 2012. Why do people believe the world will…

A couple of months ago, Japanese mathematician Shinichi Mochizuki posted the latest in a series of four papers claiming the proof of a long-standing problem in mathematics – the abc conjecture. The announcement…

Clouds are not spheres, mountains are not cones … Nature exhibits not simply a higher degree but an altogether different level of complexity. - Benoît Mandelbröt, The Fractal Geometry of Nature Chaos (n…

So we have a problem for you. Take a moment to steady yourself, maybe sharpen your pencil. Don’t unpack your calculator, and leave your phone to one side. This one will be purely mental – a spot of addition…

The Nobel prize for economics is often awarded for relatively abstract theoretical work. Rather less often, it is awarded for work with clear practical relevance. This year, the committee responsible for…

The final of the women’s discus (F35-36) at the London Paralympic Games on Sunday (AEST) raised a question that doesn’t normally comes up once a sporting contest is over: “So, who won?” Ukrainian F35 thrower…

In a recent thought-provoking article in The Conversation, Kate Murphy posed the question: “Is there a limit to athletic performance?”. The answer, mathematically speaking, is yes. Kate considered the…

Those that can’t do, teach – or so goes the famous saying. But what of those who want to do teaching. What of those who do maths teaching? Can we be sure the job they are doing is the best one for our…

A small number of countries competing at the Olympic Games will win a large proportion of the medals available. There are 80 countries competing in London who have yet to win a single medal in the Olympics…

“TWANG! It’s been a …” There is perhaps no song as quintessentially Beatle-ish as A Hard Day’s Night - it just bubbles with unbridled enthusiasm and joy. And in my mind, there’s no other opening chord…

Last week, The Guardian informed us the Eurozone Crisis will Cost World’s Poorest Countries US$238bn. Really? Not US$237 billion or US$239 billion? Perhaps it was just a wonky headline, and the article…

As mentioned already on this site and others, this year marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of famed British mathematician Alan Turing. The outline of his remarkable life and sad ending has by now…

There’s been plenty of commentary recently on the “numeracy crisis” threatening the economies of many developed nations, including Australia. A 2009 report by the National Academies in the US was not the…

These are painful times for those hoping to see an international consensus and substantive action on global warming. In the US, Republican presidential front-runner Mitt Romney said in June 2011: “The…

Last month, a team led by Gary McGuire from University College Dublin in Ireland made an announcement: they had proven you can’t have a solvable Sudoku puzzle with less than 17 numbers already filled in…

Last year will go on record as one of significant natural disasters both in Australia and overseas. Indeed, the flooding of the Brisbane River in January is still making news as the Queensland floods inquiry…

What do iPhones, Twitter, Netflix, cleaner cities, safer cars, state-of-the-art environmental management and modern medical diagnostics have in common? They are all made possible by Moore’s Law. Moore’s…

We humans have long been interested in defining the abilities that set us apart from other species. Along with capabilities such as language, the ability to recognise and manipulate numbers (“numerical…

You may have read the British Government is being petitioned to grant a posthumous pardon to one of the world’s greatest mathematicians and most successful codebreakers, Alan Turing. You may also have…

Does the thought of p-values and regressions make you break out in a cold sweat? Never fear – read on for answers to some of those burning statistical questions that keep you up 87.9% of the night. What…

MILLENNIUM PRIZE SERIES: The Millennium Prize Problems are seven mathematics problems laid out by the Clay Mathematics Institute in 2000. They’re not easy— a correct solution to any one results in a US$1,000,000…

Assessing risk is something everyone must do every day. Yet few are very good at it, and there are significant consequences of the public’s collective inability to accurately assess risk. As a first and…

MILLENNIUM PRIZE SERIES: The Millennium Prize Problems are seven mathematics problems laid out by the Clay Mathematics Institute in 2000. They’re not easy—a correct solution to any one results in a US$1,000,000…

MILLENNIUM PRIZE SERIES: The Millennium Prize Problems are seven mathematics problems laid out by the Clay Mathematics Institute in 2000. They’re not easy – a correct solution to any one results in a US$1,000,000…

MILLENNIUM PRIZE SERIES: The Millennium Prize Problems are seven mathematics problems laid out by the Clay Mathematics Institute in 2000. They’re not easy – a correct solution to any one results in a US$1,000,000…

MILLENNIUM PRIZE SERIES: The Millennium Prize Problems are seven mathematics problems laid out by the Clay Mathematics Institute in 2000. They’re not easy – a correct solution to any one results in a US$1,000,000…

My intention with this article is to give an intuitive and non-technical introduction to the field of evolutionary algorithms, particularly with regards to optimisation. If I get you interested, I think…

Let’s talk numbers for a moment. The moon is approximately 384,000 kilometres away, and the sun is approximately 150 million kilometres away. The mean distance between Earth and the sun is known as the…

Australia faces many big challenges – in the economy, health, energy, water, climate change, infrastructure, sustainable agriculture and the preservation of our precious biodiversity. To meet these, we…

During a lunch in the summer of 1950, physicists Enrico Fermi, Edward Teller and Herbert York were chatting about a recent New Yorker cartoon depicting aliens abducting trash cans in flying saucers. Suddenly…

Welcome to Peer Review, a series in which we ask leading academics to review books written by people working in the same field. Here Geraint Lewis, Professor of Astrophysics at the University of Sydney…

I work on the mathematics of sharing resources, which has led me to consider emotions such as envy, behaviour such as risk-taking and the best way to cut a cake. Like, I suspect, many women, my wife enjoys…

While adding up your grocery bill in the supermarket, you’re probably not thinking how important or sophisticated our number system is. But the discovery of the present system, by unknown mathematicians…

Region by region projections of how climate is likely to change over the coming decades help to make the prospect of global warming more tangible and relevant. Picturing the climate we are likely to have…

What is pure mathematics? What do pure mathematicians do? Why is pure mathematics important? These are questions I’m often confronted with when people discover I do pure mathematics. I always manage to…

There is a crisis in the education system, and it’s affecting the life chances of many young Australians. The number of secondary teaching graduates with adequate qualifications to teach mathematics is…

When you look at a train or university timetable you don’t think about how the timetable was made – you’re thinking about your trip or where your next class is. In that moment, you couldn’t care less about…

Welcome to the second instalment of If I had a blank cheque … a series in which leading researchers reveal what they could (and would) do in their discipline if money were no object. Today we hear from…

GAMBLING IN AUSTRALIA – Some say “punting is a mug’s game”. But is this always true, or can an astute gambler make long-term profits? Certainly not from casino games. Casinos make profits by paying less…

Watching films such as Superman Returns or The Day after Tomorrow, you would have seen dramatic sequences of surging water and crumbling buildings. While doing so, mathematics was probably the last thing…

Some people have argued that Pi’s days are numbered and that other tools, such as tau, could do its job more efficiently. As someone who has studied Pi throughout his entire working life, my response to…

Even in the face of death, Zeno of Elea knew how to frustrate people. Arrested for plotting against the tyrant Demylus, the ancient Greek philosopher refused to co-operate. The story goes that, rather…

Some numbers are both memorable and incorrect. Take the idea that we only use 10% of our brains. Despite there being no medical evidence for the remarkably low percentage, many still believe it. Part of…

Newspapers recently reported that a mathematician has created an equation for the perfect pizza. It does not take much to spot that this was not exactly serious research. Not only was the study commissioned…

Familiar everyday odours such as coffee and red wine are produced by a blend of different substances. Given that we know aroma is nothing but a mix of volatile chemicals, can we understand them enough…

The work of the Greek polymath Plato has kept millions of people busy for millennia. A few among them have been mathematicians…

Of the many tricks used by the world’s greatest military strategists, one usually works well – taking the enemy by surprise…

Australian mathematician and statistician Terry Speed has been awarded the 2013 Prime Minister’s Prize for Science for giving…

The notebooks of Sir Isaac Newton, who was famously reported to have suffered a (scientifically) earth-shaking blow to the…

A mathematical model that allows computers to recognise gender identity in the same way people can has been developed. Led…

Using hand gestures may help children learn mathematics better, according to a recent study. Researchers, led by Miriam A…

Mexican scientists have used maths to reveal just how impressive Ussain Bolt’s world-record dash was. The calculations show…

Baboons have displayed a natural understanding of basic numbers similar to those of young children. Eight captive olive baboons…

An American mathematical model that has been used for more than 80 years to determine the hunting range of animals in the…

A recent study of almost 2,000 musical compositions has found they all share the same “fractal” quality – that is, each contained…

Maths ability in preschool children is strongly linked to an inborn and primitive “number sense,” according to new research…

A new mathematical framework has been developed that could be used to turn road vibrations, airport runway noise and other…

Mathematical models can be used to improve the quality of life for patients with Parkinson’s disease. The models are used…

The clinical diagnosis of conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease could be made easier and more efficient…