How to Make Any Shape Zippable [research study]

Mathematics comes to the rescue of anyone who wants to make almost any shape “zippable” with a single zipper. This study has details: “Shape Representation by Zippable Ribbons,” Christian Schüller, Roi Poranne, and Olga Sorkine-Hornung, arXiv:1711.02450v1, November 7, 2017. The authors, at ETH Zürich, Switzerland, explain: “We observe that the assembly of complex 3D shapes […]

Time Travel and Journal Publishing

Can journal publishers travel backwards in time? You may think the answer is no, but consider the following case. Along with Ginestra Bianconi of Queen Mary University of London, I edited a special issue of European Journal of Applied Mathematics on “Network Analysis and Modelling.” To introduce the special issue, Ginestra and I wrote an editorial. As […]

A shortest-possible walking tour through the pubs of the UK

A shortest-possible walking tour through the pubs of the United Kingdom — that’s an advanced form of the mathematicians’ favorite, The Traveling Salesman Problem. William Cook and colleagues at the University of Waterloo tackled this nastily complex problem: Nearly everyone in the UK knows by heart the best path to take them over to their favorite public house. […]

How good are mathematicians at telling a joke?

You may have wondered how good mathematicians are at telling a joke. Here’s mathematician Henry Segerman telling a topology joke — the one about the coffee cup and the donut: Here’s another mathematician, Ian Agol, telling the same joke (filmed by Scientific American.) Here’s Jim Fowler making the joke wordlessly: Three anonymous, shy mathematicians make the […]

Mathematics, Failure, and the World’s Most Famous Walking Event

Have you ever calculated your chances of being allowed to participate in an event? As at least one study demonstrates, you might be surprised. The 100th International Four Days Marches Nijmegen, the world’s most famous walking event, took place last month. Over 40,000 people participated, and there are various ways that somebody can be allowed to participate in […]

Where the statistical wear is

Ivars Peterson, in his blog, The Mathematical Tourist, explains how a detective take a mathematical approach to some everyday questions: Marks on objects can provide intriguing statistical glimpses of usage patterns. The darkened leaves of a well-thumbed book may point to favorite passages; the distinctive hollows of oft-traversed steps suggest the characteristic tread of countless […]

How now, warm cow [Podcast 50]

Heat loss from a cow — that’s the deal in this week’s Improbable Research podcast. SUBSCRIBE on, iTunes, or Spotify to get a new episode every week, free. This week, Marc Abrahams  —with dramatic readings by Daniel Rosenberg — tells about: Heat loss from a cow — Khan, Zahid A., Irfan Anjum Badruddin, G. A. Quadir, and K. N. Seetharamu (2006). ‘A Quick and Accurate […]

Arnold’s view of Russian vs. American mathematicians

The late, colorful Russian mathematician Vladimir Igorevich Arnold [pictured here] discussed how certain nations are famed for the way their mathematicians go about mathematicianing. This is from an interview he gave to S.H. Lui (and published in the Notices of the American Mathematical Society, in 1997): QUESTION: Do you notice any differences in the way people from […]