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No, This Viral Image Does Not Explain the History of Arabic Numerals

Your cousin’s Facebook friends are probably going nuts over this image that claims to show how the early history of Arabic geometric design informs how we write numerals today. “Each figure contains its own number of corners and angles,” reads the text. That’s half-true of the drawings in the image. The rest is… » 7/21/15 2:45pm 7/21/15 2:45pm

What Did Pythagoras Mean By "All Things Are Number"?

We all know that numbers can help us understand the beauty of nature. But in this excerpt from the new book A Beautiful Question: Finding Nature’s Deep Design by Nobel Prize-winning physicist Frank Wilczek, he shows how it goes a lot deeper than that. Did the ancient mathematician Pythagoras know something we don’t? » 7/14/15 10:30am 7/14/15 10:30am

How to Bake Pi Uses Math to Solve the Cookbook Paradox

There is a lie running through your cookbooks. No, it’s not that you can substitute crackers for apples in your pie and no one will know the difference (though, come on, let’s be decent to each other, folks: Knock that off.) The lie goes much deeper than all that, and is the source of what I call the Cookbook Paradox.
» 7/10/15 2:20pm 7/10/15 2:20pm

New Simulation Shows How The Pacific Islands May Have Been Colonized

The 24 major island groups of the Pacific Ocean were settled by early Austronesians between 3,500 and 900 years ago, but little is known about how these isolated islands were colonized. Now, researchers have used epidemiological modeling to devise some compelling new ideas about how it was done.
» 4/24/15 10:20am 4/24/15 10:20am

The Whys, Wherefores, and Wonders of Mathematics

Check out this delightful video of math teacher Paul Lockhart—author of Measurement, "a permanent solution to math phobia by introducing us to mathematics as an artful way of thinking and living"—waxing lyrical about the splendors of mathematics and mathematical thinking, and why "the mathematical question is always… » 4/17/15 3:40pm 4/17/15 3:40pm

How Is A Mathematical Proof Like Frodo's Journey In Lord Of The Rings?

When people describe a story as being told in a "by the numbers" fashion, that's usually regarded as bad. But in a talk at Oxford University the other day, scientist Marcus du Sautoy argued that a great mathematical proof is a lot like a story. In fact, a really great proof is like Frodo's journey in Lord of the Rings » 1/21/15 4:00pm 1/21/15 4:00pm