Column

  1. Math

    Cosmic Numerology

    Like the ancient Pythagoreans, astronomer Johannes Kepler (1571–1630) found numbers fascinating. Imbued with the same conviction of a natural order that drove Pythagoras (c. 580–500 B.C.) and his followers to search for an underlying numerical harmony, Kepler maintained that the physical universe was laid out according to a mathematical design that was simple and accessible […]

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  2. Math

    Cosmic Numerology

    Like the ancient Pythagoreans, astronomer Johannes Kepler (1571–1630) found numbers fascinating. Imbued with the same conviction of a natural order that drove Pythagoras (c. 580–500 B.C.) and his followers to search for an underlying numerical harmony, Kepler maintained that the physical universe was laid out according to a mathematical design that was simple and accessible […]

    By
  3. Math

    Lava Lamp Randomness

    Sealed within a transparent, tapered, liquid-filled cylinder, illuminated colored globs slowly rise and fall. Meandering and deforming, their shapes and paths change unpredictably. Invented in 1963, a decorative fixture in many homes during the 1970s, and still in production, Lava Lite lamps are now the object of renewed curiosity. Indeed, researchers have come up with […]

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  4. Math

    Lava Lamp Randomness

    Sealed within a transparent, tapered, liquid-filled cylinder, illuminated colored globs slowly rise and fall. Meandering and deforming, their shapes and paths change unpredictably. Invented in 1963, a decorative fixture in many homes during the 1970s, and still in production, Lava Lite lamps are now the object of renewed curiosity. Indeed, researchers have come up with […]

    By
  5. Math

    Temple Circles

    One tradition that flourished 200 years ago in Japan, during its period of isolation from the western world, involved Euclidean geometry. Scholars and others would inscribe geometric problems on wooden tablets, then hang the tablets under the eaves of Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples as offerings. Such a tablet is called a sangaku, which means […]

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  6. Math

    Temple Circles

    One tradition that flourished 200 years ago in Japan, during its period of isolation from the western world, involved Euclidean geometry. Scholars and others would inscribe geometric problems on wooden tablets, then hang the tablets under the eaves of Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples as offerings. Such a tablet is called a sangaku, which means […]

    By
  7. Math

    Strange Orbits

    Like toy cars chasing each other on a looped racetrack, three stars can, in principle, trace out a figure-eight orbit in space. This newly discovered, mathematically surprising pattern of motion arises from the force of gravity acting on three bodies of equal mass. Their movements are timed so that each body in turn passes between […]

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  8. Math

    Strange Orbits

    Like toy cars chasing each other on a looped racetrack, three stars can, in principle, trace out a figure-eight orbit in space. This newly discovered, mathematically surprising pattern of motion arises from the force of gravity acting on three bodies of equal mass. Their movements are timed so that each body in turn passes between […]

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  9. Math

    Prized Geometric Logic

    Computer programs can handle all sorts of data, from sums of money in bank accounts to sensor readings from scientific instruments. In many cases, the data are a set of discrete elements, such as temperatures. Moreover, some elements of a set may be larger in value than others, or they may exhibit some other relationship […]

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  10. Math

    Buses on Quantum Schedules

    Anyone who has waited for a bus in the city has probably casually observed that, after an inordinately long wait, two or three buses often come along at the same time. The question of why such bunching seems to happen has prompted all sorts of speculation. Some claim that bus bunching is actually a rare […]

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  11. Math

    Subtle Logic, Winning Game

    Seemingly simple games can serve as thought-provoking exercises in mathematical logic. They can provide deep insights into subtle issues that confront logicians who are interested in the foundations of mathematics. So-called Ehrenfeucht games have proved particularly useful for tackling certain aspects of mathematical logic. They were developed in the 1960s by Andrzej Ehrenfeucht, who is […]

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  12. Math

    Mayan Mars

    The curiously looping movements of the planets relative to the stars have presented all sorts of puzzles to keen, patient observers of the night sky. In 1601, Johannes Kepler (1571-1630) undertook the challenge of deciphering the orbit of Mars and developing a mathematical theory of its motion to fit observations of the planet’s changing position […]

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