Tagged With mathematics

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Even if you don't know much physics, you probably know one of its core tenets: an object at rest stays at rest, and an object in motion stays in motion. In fact, in a vacuum where there's literally nothing to slow things down, things don't prefer being at rest or in motion. This plays out in real life all the time — when you're sitting in the bathroom on a plane, for instance, you can't feel that you're moving 800km an hour. You only feel the changes in your velocity via the bumps.

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The number zero is something we all take for granted, yet its conceptual origin has eluded archaeologists and historians. An updated analysis of an ancient Indian manuscript is shedding new light on this longstanding mystery, showing that the symbol that would eventually evolve into the number zero emerged at least 500 years earlier than previously thought.

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A popular chess problem known as the Queen's Puzzle has captivated mathematicians and computer scientists for years, yet no one has been able to write a computer program that can solve the conundrum quickly and efficiently. Researchers from the UK now claim that computers will never be up to the task — and they're offering a $US1 million ($1.3 million) to anyone who can prove them wrong.

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You are very lucky that you ended up about the size that you are today, somewhere between 30cm and 3m tall and weighing somewhere between 0.5 and 500kg. This is a very good size. Not to body shame, but if you were, say, a quadrillion times shorter and weighed a nonillion times less (that's one followed by 30 zeros), that would be very inconvenient for you. Everything would be very inconvenient for you.

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One of the most well-accepted physical theories makes no logical sense. Quantum mechanics, the theory that governs the smallest possible spaces, forces our human brains to accept some really wacky, uncomfortable realities. Maybe we live in a world where certain observations can force our universe to branch into multiple ones. Or maybe actions in the present influence things earlier in time.

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Mathematics is far more fraught with debate and disagreement than you might imagine. Arguments about things some of the smartest physicists have trouble understanding rage for years. Recently, a pair of mathematicians ignited some old flames — or rather, shattered some glass — with a new set of results that, if correct, have far-reaching implications in physics and even cybersecurity.

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The hallways of maths and science history are overflowing with the achievements of white men, from Sir Isaac Newton to Steve Jobs; their faces are printed into primary school textbooks everywhere, and their achievements have been indelibly drilled into our minds, with countless awards and institutions named after them. To be brilliant is a gift, but who gets to be remembered as such involves privilege.

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Calculators are awesome, but they're not always handy. More to the point, no one wants to be seen reaching for the calculator on their mobile phone when it's time to figure out a 15 per cent gratuity. Here are ten tips to help you crunch numbers in your head.

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Have you ever wondered what your brain is really doing as you sweat your way through a maths test? Now you can see for yourself, thanks to a new brain imaging study from Carnegie Mellon University that captured the brain activity of people in the act of solving maths problems.

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Our universe appears to be bound by a finite set of laws, yet we often talk about things that go on for an eternity. "Infinity" is a strange idea. But it's crucial if you want to understand anything from philosophy to mathematics. Here's why.