Articles on Mathematics

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We’re shortchanging our students by waiting to introduce the big scientific ideas until high school. Young mozart image from www.shutterstock.com

Searching for scientific Mozarts: get em’ while they’re young

MATHS AND SCIENCE EDUCATION: We’ve asked our authors about the state of maths and science education in Australia and its future direction. In this instalment, Jennifer Donovan, Carole Haeusler and Ian…
An expanding population means more cars on the road than ever before. So how can maths help ease traffic congestion? Mr. T in DC

Stuck in traffic? Maths can get you on your way

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…
Going against your intuition could increase your chances of winning a car instead of a goat, according to the Monty Hall problem. mgbutterfly

The Monty Hall problem: going with your gut will get your goat

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…
Sending secure information? You could do a lot worse than employing the RSA algorithm. Seq

The RSA algorithm (or how to send private love letters)

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…
As all mathematicians know, the rift between useful and useless can change with time. Manu gomi

Your number’s up – a case for the usefulness of useless maths

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…
The predictions of current particle physics have been spectacularly validated. Michael J. Linden

A Higgs, the Higgs … is maths at the root of reality?

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…
Australia is one of the few developed nations to not require graduating high-school students to study maths. Flickr/bootload

Make maths mandatory and we’ll improve our international education rankings

Australia is not doing well in the international literacy and numeracy attainment rankings and many rightly point out the funding issues, clearly identified in the Gonski Review, as central contributing…
Why do so many people believe in the Mayan apocalypse myth? Apocalypse image from www.shutterstock.com

Apocalypse myths show our fear of the world as we know it

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…
It’s taken many years of hard work but a new proof of the abc conjecture looks like it could stack up. nettsu

The abc conjecture, as easy as 1, 2, 3 … or not

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…
What starts as a flap of wings can end – metaphorically – in a hurricane. horizontal.integration

Explainer: what is Chaos Theory?

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…
Stanford University’s Alvin Roth (pictured) and UCLA’s Lloyd Shapley were given the Nobel prize “for the theory of stable allocations and the practice of market design”. AAP

Match-making economists earn Nobel prize for economic engineering

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…
Mariia Pomazan was stripped of her gold medal following an Australian protest. EPA/Gerry Penny

Discus farce prompts points pow-wow at Paralympics

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…
Physics puts a limit on how far you can throw a javelin. Airman Magazine

Yes, there is a limit to athletic ability – physics

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…
The US is expected to dine out on its successes at London 2012. US Army

And the winner is …? Predicting gold medals at the Olympics

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…

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