# jonkroll / tags / mathematics

## Tagged with “mathematics” (18)

1. ### Nassim Nicholas Taleb and Benoit Mandelbrot on the financial crisis

The infuriating Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of the dreadfully-written (but annoyingly correct) Black Swan, gets to say "I told you so.":

As the financial sector shifts, so does the reach of the jolt to economic structures around the world. Economist Nassim Nicholas Taleb and his mentor, mathematician Benoit Mandelbrot, speak with Paul Solman about chain reactions and predicting the financial crisis.

2. ### A Countdown to Zero

Episode one of Five Numbers, the BBC radio series presented by Simon Singh.

What’s 2 minus 2? The answer is obvious, right? But not if you wore a tunic, no socks and lived in Ancient Greece. For strange as it sounds, ‘nothing’ had to be invented, and then it took thousands of years to catch on.

3. ### Simple as Pi

Episode two of Five Numbers, the BBC radio series presented by Simon Singh.

Most people’s first slice of Pi is at school where it is generally made palatable as either 3.14 or the fraction 3 1/7. The memory of this number may be fuzzy for those propelled through their Maths GCSE by the power of Casio (where Pi was reduced to a button on the bottom row of the calculator), but the likelihood is they still recall that romanticised notion of a number whose decimal places randomly go on forever. At its simplest, Pi is the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter. At its most complex, it is an irrational number that cannot be expressed as the ratio of two whole numbers and has an apparently random decimal string of infinite length.

4. ### The Golden Ratio

Episode three of Five Numbers, the BBC radio series presented by Simon Singh.

Divide any number in the Fibonacci sequence by the one before it, for example 55/34, or 21/13, and the answer is always close to 1.61803. This is known as the Golden Ratio, and hence Fibonacci’s Sequence is also called the Golden Sequence. Unlikely though it might seem, this series of numbers is the common factor linking rabbits, cauliflowers and snails.

5. ### The Imaginary Number

Episode four of Five Numbers, the BBC radio series presented by Simon Singh.

The imaginary number takes mathematics to another dimension. It was discovered in sixteenth century Italy at a time when being a mathematician was akin to being a modern day rock star, when there was ‘nuff respect’ to be had from solving a particularly ‘wicked’ equation. And the wicked equation of the day went like this: "If the square root of 1 is both 1 and -1, then what is the square root of -1?"

6. ### Infinity

Episode five of Five Numbers, the BBC radio series presented by Simon Singh.

Given the old maxim about an infinite number of monkeys and typewriters, one can assume that said simian digits will type up the following line from Hamlet an infinite number of times.

7. ### The Number Four

Episode one of Another Five Numbers, the BBC radio series presented by Simon Singh.

Simon Singh’s journey begins with the number 4, which for over a century has fuelled one of the most elusive problems in mathematics: is it true that any map can be coloured with just 4 colours so that no two neighbouring countries have the same colour? This question has tested some of the most imaginative minds — including Lewis Carroll’s — and the eventual solution has aided the design of some of the world’s most complex air and road networks.

8. ### The Number Seven

Episode two of Another Five Numbers, the BBC radio series presented by Simon Singh.

Picture a gambler. Is it George Clooney, tuxedo ruffled after an all-nighter at a Vegas Black Jack table, or your old Aunt Doris putting down her yearly quid-on-the-nose for the Grand National? Recent research would suggest that it’s neither. Your inveterate gambler is far more likely to be sporting leather patches at their elbows, an unhealthy appetite for corduroy, and a penchant for M-Series rather than Martinis, shaken or stirred. Some mathematicians are putting their mathematical theory where their mouth is and are betting the shirts, stuffed or otherwise, off their backs.

9. ### Game Theory

Episode five of Another Five Numbers, the BBC radio series presented by Simon Singh.

In 2000, the UK government received a windfall of around £23 billion from its auction of third generation (3G) mobile phone licences. This astronomical sum wasn’t the result of corporate bidders "losing their heads", but a careful strategy designed to maximise proceeds for the Treasury.

10. ### 2 — At The Double

Episode two of A Further Five Numbers, the BBC radio series presented by Simon Singh.

We all remember the story of the Persian who invented chess and who asked to be paid with 1 grain of rice on the first square, 2 on the second, 4 on the third and so on, doubling all the way to the 64th square. He bankrupted the state!

This doubling is a form of exponential growth, which appears in everything from population growth to financial inflation to the inflation theory that supposedly caused the Big Bang.

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