Shepherd physics: Capturing a skittish lamb, using statistical physics

A trio of theoretical physicists have recently used ideas from statistical mechanics and probability theory to try to develop an optimal strategy for capturing a skittish lamb near a precipice. The situation that they model is an idealization of “the capture of a diffusing, but skittish lamb, with an approaching shepherd on the left and […]

“Finding a Mate With No Social Skills”

Computer scientists Chris Marriott of the University of Washington and Jobran Chebib of the University of Zürich recently posted a paper on the arXiv preprint server with the provocative title of “Finding a Mate With No Social Skills.” Well, that title gives many of us a lot more hope, doesn’t it? In fact, there is […]

New study: “The Tongue as an Excitable Medium”

A new article (published in New Journal of Physics), called “The Tongue as an Excitable Medium”, posits an explanation for a condition known as “geographic tongue” by treating the tongue as an excitable medium and conducting a mathematical analysis of pattern formation on it. Here is the abstract: Geographic tongue (GT) is a medical condition […]

8,315,553,613,086,720,000, and the Monster

Who wrote the paper of papers that has the number 8,315,553,613,086,720,000 in its title? John H. Conway. The 8,315,553,613,086,720,000 paper is: “A Group of Order 8,315,553,613,086,720,000,” John H. Conway, Bulletin of the London Mathematical Society, 1 (1969): 79-88. Someone convinced him to sit down and talk about “Life, Death, and The Monster”  Here’s video of that: […]

First Rule of Ant Fight Club: Choose a Model for Ant Fight Club

Two ants enter; one ant leaves. (Well, the numbers are actually somewhat larger than that.) In the paper Modeling ant battles by means of a diffusion-limited Gillespie algorithm, biologist Giacomo Santini and his coauthors have proposed two modeling approaches for studying battles among ants. When developing theories (for animal behavior and in other complex systems), […]

Professional Football Player by Day, Spectral Graph Theorist by Night

John Urschel is not your ordinary National Football League offensive lineman. He may be a professional football player by day, but by night he is a spectral graph theorist (and numerical linear algebraist). His latest paper has now been accepted for publication in Journal of Computational Mathematics. Urschel announced via Twitter that his paper had […]

A rock, a paper, a scissors, a bunch of lizards

Hannah Fry, in this Numberphile video, tots up the cases of rock-paper-scissors mathematics as applied to lizards: This goes back, more or less, to a sex study published in the year 2000: “Polygyny, mate-guarding, and posthumous fertilization as alternative male mating strategies,” Kelly R. Zamudio and Barry Sinervo, PNAS, 2000 97 (26) 14427-14432. Here’s a photo of rock-paper-scissors/lizards […]