Tag: Europe

Ancient Text Reveals Earliest Known Understanding Of Zero

The concept of zero is so deeply engrained in our culture that it is hard to imagine not having it. Yet most ancient cultures never came up with the idea, greatly to the detriment of their mathematical development. We don’t know exactly when the idea first appeared, but re-analysis of a nearly 2,000-year-old Indian manuscript has taken us closer to this crucial point.

The Bakhshali manuscript is written on pieces of birch bark and was found buried in a field outside the village of Bakhshali, Pakistan, in 1881. It has been housed in the Bodleian Library, Oxford, since 1902. It contains hundreds of zero symbols, and clearly represents one of the oldest surviving references to this concept. However, its age has been in doubt, with estimates based on writing style placing it around the year 800.

Testing of three samples in the Oxford Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit revealed that the manuscript, rather than having a single origin, was created in pieces centuries apart. The earliest measured section dates to somewhere between 224 and 383 AD, while additions were made in 680-779 and 885-993 AD. The last date roughly aligns with other examples we have of the dot symbol, which gradually evolved into our 0, being used to indicate absence. However, the earlier dates are well outside expectations.

The fact the manuscript remained in use for so long, and was expanded at least twice centuries later, indicates its status, probably as a training manual. It is filled with examples of practical arithmetic and algebra. Oxford’s Professor Marcus du Sautoy told The Guardian: “There’s a lot of ‘If someone buys this and sells this how much have they got left?’”

“Today we take it for granted that the concept of zero is used across the globe and is a key building block of the digital world. But the creation of zero as a number in its own right, which evolved from the placeholder dot symbol found in the Bakhshali manuscript, was one of the greatest breakthroughs in the history of mathematics,” du Sautoy said in a statement. “We now know that it was as early as the 3rd century that mathematicians in India planted the seed of the idea that would later become so fundamental to the modern world. The findings show how vibrant mathematics have been in the Indian sub-continent for centuries.”

Both the Babylonians and Mayans had symbols for nothing, but it was only when the Indians developed the idea that its mathematical power was realized. Even then, the placeholding dot took centuries to evolve into the concept that zero could be a number.

Arab traders spread the idea from India, but it faced considerable resistance upon its arrival in Europe, even facing attempts to ban it as heresy.

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/physics/starting-from-zero-earliest-symbol-of-nothing-found/

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The police hero, the maths genius and more: meet Macrons new MPs

The French president swept parliamentary elections on Sunday with a wave of non-career MPs who could be the most interesting politicians in Europe. But it was bad news for the partys celebrity bullfighter

If Britons werent so wrapped up in our own great political unravelling, we would be obsessing about developments on the other side of the Channel. Emmanuel Macrons party La Rpublique En Marche, founded little more than a year ago, has won a clear majority in the national assembly something the Conservative party (founded 182 years earlier) signally failed to manage in the UK. Macron has effected a bloodless revolution, while the UK is mired in political paralysis.

Part of Macrons appeal is that, rather like the Scottish National party when they swept the board in Scotland in the 2015 general election, he has brought a new set of people into politics. He determined that half his partys candidates should not previously have been politicians, that they should be younger and more diverse than existing assembly members, and that half the candidates should be women. Macrons directives have thrown up some intriguing new MPs:

A dandyish penchant for cravats Cdric Villani. Photograph: Joel Saget/AFP/Getty Images

The doyen of the new En Marche parliamentary group is Cdric Villani, a brilliant mathematician with a dandyish penchant for cravats. He triumphed easily in the fifth district of Essonne, south of Paris. Villani, who won the much-prized Fields medal for mathematics in 2010 and is the director of the Institut Henri-Poincar in Paris, said last month that, if elected, he was ready for a new challenge: Its important to make a change from time to time, and in most cases your previous lives will help you in your future life.

Another high-profile En Marche candidate elected by a sizeable majority was Jean-Michel Fauvergue, who defeated his Republican rival in a constituency to the east of Paris. Fauvergue was formerly the commander of the elite police unit Raid. His unit was part of the force involved in the Bataclan siege he felt Raid should have been given full control and he personally directed the assault against the Saint-Denis apartment where Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the alleged coordinator of the Paris terrorist attacks of November 2015, was in hiding. Abaaoud was killed in the raid.

Former bullfighter Marie Sara. Photograph: Guillaume Horcajuelo/EPA

Herv Berville is an economist who was born in Rwanda in 1990. He survived the Rwandan genocide of 1994, was adopted by a family in Brittany, studied in Lille and then did a masters degree in development economics at the London School of Economics. He has been elected to represent a constituency in Brittany, and is seen as part of Macrons attempt to introduce greater diversity into French politics.

The highest-profile En Marche candidate of them all, retired bullfighter Marie Sara, was beaten by the incumbent National Front MP Gilbert Collard by just 0.3% of the vote in the southern department of Gard, traditionally an NF stronghold. Her defeat is a loss to Frances remarkable new parliament, but Macron hopes he has enough firepower to tackle his countrys deep-seated social and economic problems. Despite Saras absence, the radical centrist intends to take the bull by the horns. Again, the contrast with the directionlessness in the UK is stark.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/shortcuts/2017/jun/19/macron-new-mps-police-hero-maths-genius-bullfighter

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Professor wins $700k for solving 300-year-old math equation

(CNN)It was a problem that had baffled mathematicians for centuries — until British professor Andrew Wiles set his mind to it.

“There are no whole number solutions to the equation xn + yn = zn when n is greater than 2.”

    Otherwise known as “Fermat’s Last Theorem,” this equation was first posed by French mathematician Pierre de Fermat in 1637, and had stumped the world’s brightest minds for over 300 years.


    In the 1990s, Oxford professor Andrew Wiles finally solved the problem, and this week was awarded the hugely prestigious 2016 Abel Prize — including a $700,000 windfall.

    The prize, often described as the Nobel of mathematics, was awarded by the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters, with an official ceremony featuring Crown Prince Haakon of Norway to take place in May.

    “Wiles is one of very few mathematicians — if not the only one — whose proof of a theorem has made international headline news,” said the Abel Committee.

    “In 1994 he cracked Fermat’s Last Theorem, which at the time was the most famous, and long-running, unsolved problem in the subject’s history.”

    Wiles, 62, first became fascinated with the theorem as a 10 year old growing up in Cambridge, England, after finding a copy of Fermat’s Last Theorem at his local library.

    “I knew from that moment that I would never let it go,” he said. “I had to solve it.”

    He spent seven years intensively working on the equation in secret while at Princeton University, finally cracking it in 1994 by combining the three complex mathematical fields of modular forms, elliptic curves, and Galois representations.

    “I was very lucky that not only did I solve the problem, but I opened the door for a whole new era in my field,” said Wiles.

    “Problems that had previously seemed inaccessible, now became open.”

    “You never forget the moment you have these great breakthroughs — it’s what you live for,” he added.

    Read more: Meet the 10-year-old math genius who just enrolled at college

    Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2016/03/16/europe/fermats-last-theorem-solved-math-abel-prize/index.html

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