Bicycle tracks – still being covered

As Sherlock Holmes aficionados will know, in the 1903 story ‘The Adventure of the Priory School’, Holmes determined the direction in which a bicycle was travelling simply by observing the tyre tracks which it had made – asserting that the deeper of the two wheel marks must have come from the heavier rear wheel … […]

Further Physics of Tumbling Toast

It was back in 1844 that the Victorian poet and satirist James Payn wrote :     “I’ve never had a piece of toast     particularly long and wide,     but fell upon a sanded floor,     and always on the buttered-side.” Depending on whether you are an optimist or a pessimist this poetic generalisation may […]

The mathematics of somersaults on the trampoline

Very few researchers have attempted to describe a biomechanical model for numerical simulation of front and back somersaults, as performed on the trampoline (without twist). But there are exceptions – take for example Wojciech Blajer (Department of Mechanics, Institute of Applied Mechanics, Technical University of Radom, Poland) and Adam Czaplicki  (Department of Biomechanics, Institute of […]

Raymer untangles string-tangling for you

Dorian Raymer explains, in this video, his Ig Nobel Prize-winning research about how and why bunches of string will inevitably become tangled:

Mathematicalistic Analysis of Broadway Collaboration Success

A 2005 study tried to use math techniques to analyze who was (and who will be) successful in building broadway shows: “Collaboration and Creativity: The Small World Problem,” Brian Uzzi [Northwestern University] and Jarrett Spiro [Stanford University then, INSEAD now], American Journal of Sociology, vol. 111, no. 2, September 2005. The authors analyzed the small […]

Hairy Ball Update 2012

The Hairy Ball Theorem  (HBT) was first postulated (and then proved) by Luitzen Egbertus Jan Brouwer in 1912. An informal statement of the theorem is that :               “One cannot comb the hair on a coconut”. Temptations to classify the theorem as trivial should be strongly resisted – as it’s still finding relevance in many current research […]

Happy 100th to Willcocks of the squared square

Ed Pegg writes, on the Mattpuzzle site: “T. H. Willcocks [pictured here], the first to make a perfect squared square, turned 100 on 19 April 2012″. Further detail: At WWII end, an able young Englishman became aware of and interested in the problem of squaring the square. This man is Theophilus Harding Willcocks (THW), also known […]

Bubbles, balloons and maths clowns—oh my! (she says)

Investigator Patricia Jonas sent us this note: I was directed to a web site that says: “Imagine making maths fun using soap bubbles, balloons and a Maths Clown.” I do not want to imagine making maths fun using soap bubbles, balloons and a Maths Clown. I enjoy maths. But I find clowns disturbing. Very disturbing. […]

Let’s go, Camping! How Harold does his math.

Harold Camping calculates that the world will end on Friday, October 21, 2011. Mr. Camping and several like-minded persons shared the 2011 Ig Nobel Prize in mathematics, for teaching the world to be careful when making mathematical assumptions and calculations. How does Harold Camping do math? He shares his secrets in his mathematics text book: The Perfect […]

The penny determination algorithm

Dan Meyer writes, on his blog: Something I enjoy about computational thinking (the focus of my position with Google) is that it asks you to explicitly verbalize processes that may only exist in your intuition, processes that are too obvious for words. Case in point: which of these is a US penny? 100% of my […]