Mathematics, News

How one single sheepdog herds a flock of one hundred – mystery solved


Researchers at Swansea University, UK and Uppsala University in Sweden built a mathematical model that explains how one single sheepdog can round up herds made of up to 100 sheep. Their conclusion suggests that the dog needs only to follow two simple mathematical rules. …

Mathematics, News

Iranian is the first woman to win prestigious math award


Maryam Mirzakhani, who was born and raised in Iran, has been awarded the highest honour a mathematician can attain: the Fields Medal. It’s one of those moments which will go down in history – for the first time in almos 80 years, a woman has won the Fields Medal (officially known as the International Medal for Outstanding Discoveries in Mathematics). Maryam Mirzakhani, an Iranian maths professor at Stanford University in California was rumoured to be among the favorites for quite a while, due to her groundbreaking studies, which seem downright esoterical to less mathematical minds. Born and raised in Iran, Mirzakhani completed a PhD at Harvard in 2004, even though…

Mathematics, Neurology, News

The road to happiness is paved with many surprises


Sometimes, we go through situations thinking when we reach the end of the road the outcome will feel gloom. But sometimes, the exact opposite happens and we’re flooded with absolute joy, the kind of which we couldn’t have experienced were we to expect that outcome. In a word, this is called surprise. …

Did you know?, Feature Post, Mathematics

If you fold an A4 sheet of paper 103 times its thickness will roughly be the size of the Universe

The folding limiting equation Britney found: L is the minimum possible length of the material, t is material thickness, and n is the number of folds possible in one direction.

Whaaaat? It’s just a matter of math, really. Fold an A4 once and it will be twice as thick, fold it again and it will be four times as thick as it initially was. Turns out, according to Dr Karl Kruszelnicki, if you do this 103 times the sheet’s thickness will be larger than the observable Universe: 93 billion light-years.  To do this, however, involves an exponential increase of the necessary energy to fold the paper, which wasn’t computed. The current record for the most times a standard A4 has been folded in half is twelve, and was set by Britney Gallivan more than 10 years ago when she was only a high school…

Art, Mathematics, Science

These architectural wonders were built by robots

Photo credit: ICD

University of Stuttgart’s Institute for Computational Design (ICD) is a state of the art research facility that seeks to solve complex structural problems by mimicking nature. Every year, the institute demonstrates how natural biological constructions can be used to solve design problems by building a new research wing. The results are nothing short of breath taking. This year for instance, ICD built a structure that looks like something out of the Alien movie franchise. Who wants to move into a hive? I do. Letting nature design your house The challenge was to build a structure out of composite materials like glass and carbon fiber without using massive molds to dictate the shape….

Geology, Mathematics, News

Invisibility cloak could help protect cities from earthquakes


French researchers say they are close to developing seismic ‘invisibility cloaks’ which would cancel out potentially hazardous earthquake shockwaves, protecting key buildings or even entire cities. Nuclear power plants especially, and potentially entire cities could be cloaked using this technology – if the researchers’ theories are true (which seems highly likely). They believe that by drilling boreholes in a precise pattern into the ground, they could divert seismic waves and averting any negative results. They’ve already teamed up with geo-engineering company Ménard to build upon their results. “You can build on this knowledge to create an invisibility cloak which will actually protect a specific site from seismic waves,” says the leader of the…

Discoveries, Mathematics, Neurology, News

Monkeys can do math, study proves

A rhesus monkey preparing to choose the four and five combination on the panel. (c) PNAS

It’s long been supposed that monkeys are capable of mental arithmetics, but it was only recently that this was proven for a fact by neuroscientists at the Margaret Livingstone of Harvard Medical School in Boston. The researchers taught three rhesus macaques to identify symbols representing the numbers zero to 25, then when given the choice between two panels, one depicting a number symbol and the other depicting an addition of two other symbols, the monkeys proved they could do math and choose which of the two was bigger. This doesn’t just mean that monkeys are smarter than everyone might have thought; it also raises important questions as to how mammalians…

Mathematics, News, Science

Gesturing is a powerful tool for children’s math learning


Children who use their hands to gesture during a math lesson gain a much deeper understanding of the concepts and methods discussed, according to new research from University of Chicago’s Department of Psychology. It’s already a pretty much accepted fact that gesturing accentuates children learning – it was already established by several studies that gestures help children learn – and many believe the same goes for scientists. This study in particular was designed to answer whether abstract gesture can support generalization beyond a particular problem and whether abstract gesture is a more effective teaching tool than concrete action. “We found that acting gave children a relatively shallow understanding of a…


Making Asimov proud: New algorithm can detect where atrocities will occur


If you’re a sci-fi geek like me, you’ve most likely read at least a few Asimov novels, and you know what psychohistory is – a fictional science which combines history, sociology, and mathematical statistics to make general predictions about the future behavior of very large groups of people. Now, researchers have made important steps towards such an algorithm. The new algorithm was developed by Xiaoshi Li of Beijing, a data scientist who took the top $12,000 prize in the organizations’ Tech Challenge for Atrocity Prevention. For each five day period, this algorithm, it takes into consideration 23 factors and builds a decision tree using data from recent atrocity and social-political…