'The Big Bang Theory' takes math notes from Carl Pomerance

Mathematics professor emeritus Carl Pomerance explains his proof of the “Sheldon conjecture” that states that the number 73’s unusual properties make it unique among prime numbers. Credit: Eli Burakian A prime number theory equation by mathematics professor emeritus Carl Pomerance turned up on The Big Bang Theory, where it was scrawled on a white board…

Can you solve it? The puzzle that is Donald Trump

The tangram was the first ever puzzle craze – and it is still going strong. You may have come across it before. You are shown a shape, and you must arrange seven pieces – five triangles, a square and a rhombus – to make that shape. Tangram pieces in colour arranged to form a square.…

A faster method for multiplying very big numbers

Credit: CC0 Public Domain The multiplication of integers is a problem that has kept mathematicians busy since Antiquity. The “Babylonian” method we learn at school requires us to multiply each digit of the first number by each digit of the second one. But when both numbers have a billion digits each, that means a billion…

Breaking down Beowulf: Statistical technique finds evidence that Old English poem had a single author

Credit: CC0 Public Domain It’s been a towering landmark in the world of English literature for more than two centuries, but Beowulf is still the subject of fierce academic debate, in part between those who claim the epic poem is the work of a single author and those who claim it was stitched together from…

An analysis of nearly 4 million pitches shows just how many mistakes umpires make

An example of balls and strikes superimposed over a strike zone from a 2010 game between the Boston Red Sox and Toronto Blue Jays. The red points were called strikes, and the green points were called balls. Credit: Pitch F/X Baseball is back, and fans can anticipate another season of amazing catches, overpowering pitching, tape-measure…

Can you solve it? 24 hour puzzle people

The little-known sport of extreme puzzling held its premier tournament this weekend in Hungary. The annual 24 Hour Puzzle Championship is a physical and intellectual endurance event in which contestants from around the world solve puzzles non-stop from 10am on Saturday to 10am on Sunday. “I have no idea why puzzlers from all over the…

Using computers to crack open centuries-old mathematical puzzles

A snippet of ‘Arithmetica,’ from Diophantus. Credit: Wikimedia In mathematics, no researcher works in true isolation. Even those who work alone use the theorems and methods of their colleagues and predecessors to develop new ideas. But when a known technique is too difficult to use in practice, mathematicians may neglect important – and otherwise solvable…

Three times political conflict reshaped American mathematics

International forces advancing toward Boxer soldiers outside the Imperial Palace in Beijing, China, during the Boxer Rebellion. Credit: Library of Congress Wars. Politics. Dynasties. Nationalism. Although mathematics isn’t typically associated with these ideas, they have combined to yield a tremendous impact on its development in the U.S. Political conflicts have led to new study abroad…

Bristol mathematician cracks Diophantine puzzle

Dr Andrew Booker. Credit: University of Bristol A mathematician from the University of Bristol has found a solution to part of a 64-year old mathematical problem – expressing the number 33 as the sum of three cubes. Since the 1950s, mathematicians have wondered if all whole numbers could be expressed as the sum of three…