Math

Category archives for Math

Who Discovered The Earth is Round?

“When Columbus lived, people thought that the earth was flat. They believed the Atlantic Ocean to be filled with monsters large enough to devour their ships, and with fearful waterfalls over which their frail vessels would plunge to destruction. Columbus had to fight these foolish beliefs in order to get men to sail with him.…

How much stuff is in the Universe?

“The most incomprehensible thing about the Universe is that it is comprehensible.” –Albert Einstein The observable Universe is huge. Incredibly, mind-bogglingly huge. When we look out, in any direction, we see galaxies upon galaxies upon galaxies, stretching for billions and billion of light years. This one picture, taken of a region of sky just one-tenth…

“I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.” –Galileo Galilei Geez, Ethan, why don’t you take on a bigger question? This question of “fundamental things” has a special meaning to scientists and natural philosophers, going all…

“No pessimist ever discovered the secret of the stars, or sailed to an uncharted land, or opened a new doorway for the human spirit.” –Helen Keller If you’ve been paying attention, you heard that the Kepler mission, earlier this week, announced the discovery of 706 candidate planets orbiting stars in its field of view. And…

In mathematics, you don’t understand things. You just get used to them. -Johann von Neumann Sometimes, I have to deal with series: lots of numbers all added together. Some series clearly approach a limit, like the following: 1 + 1/2 + 1/4 + 1/8 + 1/16 + 1/32 + … I can visualize this in…

To most outsiders, modern mathematics is unknown territory. Its borders are protected by dense thickets of technical terms; its landscapes are a mass of indecipherable equations and incomprehensible concepts. Few realize that the world of modern mathematics is rich with vivid images and provocative ideas. -Ivars Peterson Those of you who know me well know…

“A Tantalizing Hint of Dark Matter?” No.

One of the reasons I write here on ScienceBlogs is because of our associations with the New York Times, a journalistic news source that I’m proud of on most days. Today is not one of those days. It isn’t just the Times, either, the BBC is busy botching this story, so is the Telegraph, the…

Are Black Holes Forbidden Mathematically?

In the comments on one of my posts, someone pointed me towards Stephen Crothers, who gives the following argument (in a nutshell) as to why black holes cannot possibly exist: General Relativity is our theory of gravity, which relates the curvature of space to the gravitational acceleration of objects. This theory only works in certain…

How overpopulated are we?

…we spend paltry sums for population planning, even though its spontaneous growth is an urgent threat to life on our planet. There is no human circumstance more tragic than the persisting existence of a harmful condition for which a remedy is readily available. Family planning, to relate population to world resources, is possible, practical and…

Paper Folding to the Moon

Note: This post has been updated and improved for 2014 here, at the new Starts With A Bang blog. What follows below is the original version from 2009. Okay, as many of you had heard, I’ve got a new job as a full-time Professor. And not only am I pretty excited about it, I thought…