Stories tagged mathematics


No more negativity: Take a good look, this is the last you'll ever see of negative numbers.
No more negativity: Take a good look, this is the last you'll ever see of negative numbers.Courtesy SMM
In a sudden change of direction, international math scholars have announced today a whole new concept for numerals with a value below zero.

“We literally are taking the negativity out of math,” explained Gordon von Himpter, president of the International Alliance for Math Education. “It’s not secret that many people don’t like math. Through our evaluation and focus group testing, we’ve found out that negative numbers are big contributors to this negative image of math.”

So beginning today, numerals with a value less than zero will be lose their little minus sign and be referred to in a new way. Click here to see the full results of the study.

“When you count backwards, it will sound like this now,” said von Himpter, “Un one, un two, un three and so forth. The prefix ‘un’ will take the place of the old minus sign.”

The same applies to the actual numerals. New denotation for those numbers will look like this: u1, u2, u3, etc.

“We’re not phasing this in. We think a quick, clean change is the best way to try to rebuild math’s reputation,” continued von Himpter. “And we’re expecting that people will be quick to embrace this exciting change.”

The move has already been embraced in the world of meteorology.

“The most common complaints we get are in the dead of winter when the temperatures go so far below zero,” said National Weather Service spokeswoman Leslie Noting. “Now, when we say the temperature is un10 degrees, we’re pretty sure people won’t feel it’s so cold.”

Click here to get your free outdoor thermometer with the new “un” notation.

The only field that seems to be resisting this mathematical change is the world of banking.

“When our customers’ accounts go below zero, we want them to feel it is truly a negative experience,” said Henry T. Potter IV, CEO of the United Group of Banking Top Honchos. “And banks are such traditional outfits. We just don’t change.”

And Potters reminded anyone reading this report who has not clicked on the links to remember the date that this blog post is being made: April 1, 2015.

“Yes, we bankers can pull April Fools Day pranks, too,” he said.

Two girls tackle their math together: Are they inadvertently taught to fear it?
Two girls tackle their math together: Are they inadvertently taught to fear it?Courtesy gr8matt
Researchers at the University fo Chicago have published a new report in PNAS that shows math anxiety in elementary school teachers (which are predominantly female) is passed on to the young girls in their classes. The research is reported on the Smithsonian's Surprising Science blog site.

In this video, Robert Lang explains how combining origami, math, and engineering principles can produce almost any shape imaginable. Some applications include folding up mirrors for transport into space and folding up stents to fit into blood vessels. Click this to watch the video


Garrett Lisi uses math to describe everything

E8: the largest and most complex of the exceptional simple Lie algebras
E8: the largest and most complex of the exceptional simple Lie algebrasCourtesy Claudio Rocchini
Surfer dude, Garrett Lisi lives in his van on a beach in Maui. Using a type of algebra he calls E8, Garrett has developed an exceptionally simple theory of everything -- a grand unified theory that explains all the elementary particles, as well as gravity. (link to pdf of paper found below)

Lisi describes how gravity, the standard model bosons, and three generations of fermions can be unified as parts of an E8 superconnection. This unified field theory attempts to describe all fundamental interactions that physicists have observed in nature, and stands as a possible theory of everything, unifying Albert Einstein's general relativity with the standard model of particle physics.

"I think the universe is pure geometry - basically, a beautiful shape twisting and dancing over space-time. Since E8 is perhaps the most beautiful structure in mathematics, it is very satisfying that nature appears to have chosen this geometry."

"This is an 'all or nothing' kind of theory -- meaning it's going to end up agreeing with and predicting damn near everything, or it's wrong. At this stage of development, it could go either way." Garrett Lisi

This video explains how mathematics predicts reality

Warning, even though I have a degree in physics education, the material presented was way over my head. I will watch it again though, because it does give me a glimpse of how mathematics can lead to understanding, perhaps even someday making possible something like electrogravity. Click this link if the video below does not work

Learn more
Garrett Lisi forum frequently asked personal questions
Garrett Lisi forum frequently asked questions about E8 and Theory of Everything
31 page paper (pdf) An exceptionally simple theory of everything


Fluid flow separation: The fluid flow becomes detached from the surface of the object, and instead takes the forms of eddies and vortices.
Fluid flow separation: The fluid flow becomes detached from the surface of the object, and instead takes the forms of eddies and vortices.Courtesy jaganath

Fluid flow separation explained with mathematics in 1904

In 1904, Ludwig Prandtl, considered the father of modern aerodynamics, derived the exact mathematical conditions for flow separation to occur, but only in two dimensions for steady flows.

Unsteady fluid flow in three dimensions explained with mathematics in 2008

A century later, George Haller, a visiting professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at MIT led a group that explained the mathematics behind unsteady separation in two dimensions. This month, his team reports completing the theory by extending it to three dimensions. Papers on the experiments and theory are being published in the Sept. 25 issue of the Journal of Fluid Mechanics and in the September issue of Physics of Fluids, respectively. Haller's coauthors are Amit Surana, now at United Technologies; MIT student Oliver Grunberg; and Gustaaf Jacobs, now on the faculty at San Diego State University.

Fluid mechanics theorists are excited

The equation will forever change the face of advanced fluid dynamics and will have a profound impact on many industries, including the aerospace and automotive industries. This quote from Daily Tech Review shows that this breakthough has theorists in fluid mechanics excited;

The new work -- if it survives the extensive peer review that is to come -- will likely go down as the greatest scientific advance of the decade. The research has already survived a strenuous initial round of peer review.

Equally important, this month Thomas Peacock, the Atlantic Richfield Career Development Associate Professor and his colleagues report important experimental work verifying the theory.

"This is the tip of the iceberg, but we've shown that this theory works," Peacock said.

Fluid dynamics makes a difference

Understanding how surfaces effect how an object flows through a fluid (including air) can make big differences in maximizing performance. Did the new swimsuits make a difference in breaking world records in Olympic swimming competition? How about the surfaces of baseballs, golf balls, and tennis balls? The effects on miles per gallon for autos and airplanes can save millions (billions?) of dollars.

Source: MIT News


Friday nights at 9 pm.

"Numb3rs" is currently the most-watched program on Friday nights, attracting nearly 12 million viewers. Now in its third season, Numb3rs, along with the program's co-creators, Nick Falacci and Cheryl Heuton, will receive a National Science Board group Public Service Award for 2007 "for their contributions toward increasing scientific and mathematical literacy on a broad scale".

The annual Public Service Award recognizes individuals and organizations for their extraordinary contributions to increase public understanding of science. Recipients are chosen for their contributions to public service in areas such as: increasing the public's understanding of the scientific process and its communication; contributing to the development of broad science and engineering policy; promoting the engagement of scientists and engineers in public outreach; and fostering awareness of science and technology among broad segments of the population. NSF

Mathematical CSI

Cryptanalysis, probability theory, game theory, decision theory, principal components analysis, multivariate time series analysis and astrophysics are just some of the many disciplines employed in the series thus far. If you have not seen this show I recommend that you check it out.


Keeper: Image courtesy various visual stuff.

Earlier I wrote a blog post where mathematicians had determined that soccer was the most exciting sport to watch because the probability for an upset was higher than in other sports. In recent soccer related science research, Ken Bray, a theoretical physicist from the University of bath in England has conducted research to show that the areas near the top corners of the net are what he calls an “unsaveable zone”. To find this zone, Bray studied games from the past 50 years and applied his knowledge of physics, biology, and psychology to calculate the reach of a goalkeeper attempting to save a penalty kick. His advice for the goalkeepers? Move before the ball is kicked…which I think is cheating, so that would not be my advice! Bray also says that in 85% of penalty kicks, the direction in which the plant foot is the direction of the shot.

Dr. Bray has written a book on the science of soccer titled, “How to Score”.