Tag: Mathematics

Researchers share $22m Breakthrough prize as science gets rock star treatment

Glitzy ceremony honours work including that on mapping post-big bang primordial light, cell biology, plant science and neurodegenerative diseases

The most glitzy event on the scientific calendar took place on Sunday night when the Breakthrough Foundation gave away $22m (16.3m) in prizes to dozens of physicists, biologists and mathematicians at a ceremony in Silicon Valley.

The winners this year include five researchers who won $3m (2.2m) each for their work on cell biology, plant science and neurodegenerative diseases, two mathematicians, and a team of 27 physicists who mapped the primordial light that warmed the universe moments after the big bang 13.8 billion years ago.

Now in their sixth year, the Breakthrough prizes are backed by Yuri Milner, a Silicon Valley tech investor, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and his wife Priscilla Chan, Anne Wojcicki from the DNA testing company 23andMe, and Googles Sergey Brin. Launched by Milner in 2012, the awards aim to make rock stars of scientists and raise their profile in the public consciousness.

The annual ceremony at Nasas Ames Research Center in California provides a rare opportunity for some of the worlds leading minds to rub shoulders with celebrities, who this year included Morgan Freeman as host, fellow actors Kerry Washington and Mila Kunis, and Miss USA 2017 Kra McCullough. When Joe Polchinski at the University of California in Santa Barbara shared the physics prize last year, he conceded his nieces and nephews would know more about the A-list attendees than he would.

Oxford University geneticist Kim Nasmyth won for his work on chromosomes but said he had not worked out what to do with the windfall. Its a wonderful bonus, but not something you expect, he said. Its a huge amount of money, I havent had time to think it through. On being recognised for what amounts to his lifes work, he added: You have to do science because you want to know, not because you want to get recognition. If you do what it takes to please other people, youll lose your moral compass. Nasmyth has won lucrative awards before and channelled some of his winnings into Gregor Mendels former monastery in Brno.

Another life sciences prizewinner, Joanne Chory at the Salk Institute in San Diego, was honoured for three decades of painstaking research into the genetic programs that flip into action when plants find themselves plunged into shade. Her work revealed that plants can sense when a nearby competitor is about to steal their light, sparking a growth spurt in response. The plants detect threatening neighbours by sensing a surge in the particular wavelengths of red light that are given off by vegetation.

Chory now has ambitious plans to breed plants that can suck vast quantities of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere in a bid to combat climate change. She believes that crops could be selected to absorb 20 times more of the greenhouse gas than they do today, and convert it into suberin, a waxy material found in roots and bark that breaks down incredibly slowly in soil. If we can do this on 5% of the landmass people are growing crops on, we can take out 50% of global human emissions, she said.

Three other life sciences prizes went to Kazutoshi Mori at Kyoto University and Peter Walter for their work on quality control mechanisms that keep cells healthy, and to Don Cleveland at the University of California, San Diego, for his research on motor neurone disease.

The $3m Breakthrough prize in mathematics was shared by two British-born mathematicians, Christopher Hacon at the University of Utah and James McKernan at the University of California in San Diego. The pair made major contributions to a field of mathematics known as birational algebraic geometry, which sets the rules for projecting abstract objects with more than 1,000 dimensions onto lower-dimensional surfaces. It gets very technical, very quickly, said McKernan.

Speaking before the ceremony, Hacon was feeling a little unnerved. Its really not a mathematician kind of thing, but Ill probably survive, he said. Ive got a tux ready, but Im not keen on wearing it. Asked what he might do with his share of the winnings, Hacon was nothing if not realistic. Ill start by paying taxes, he said. And I have six kids, so the rest will evaporate.

Chuck Bennett, an astrophysicist at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, led a Nasa mission known as the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP) to map the faint afterglow of the big bangs radiation that now permeates the universe. The achievement, now more than a decade old, won the 27-strong science team the $3m Breakthrough prize in fundamental physics. When we made our first maps of the sky, I thought these are beautiful, Bennett told the Guardian. It is still absolutely amazing to me. We can look directly back in time.

Bennett believes that the prizes may help raise the profile of science at a time when it is sorely needed. The point is not to make rock stars of us, but of the science itself, he said. I dont think people realise how big a role science plays in their lives. In everything you do, from the moment you wake up to the moment you go to sleep, theres something about what youre doing that involves scientific advances. I dont think people think about that at all.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/science/2017/dec/04/researchers-share-22m-breakthrough-prize-as-science-gets-rock-star-treatment

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Renaissance Portraits Made From Single Thread on Circular Loom

Using a single thread roughly 1-2 km long (0.6 – 1.2 mi), Petros Vrellis continuously wraps the thread in straight, continuous lines, from one peg to its direct opposite peg in a circular, 28″ loom with 200 evenly spaced anchor pegs on its circumference. Thus each artwork is made from 3,000 – 4,000 continuously intersecting straight lines of a single thread.

Interestingly, knitting is done by hand, with step-by-step instructions dictated by a computer algorithm designed by the new media artist. Vrellis explains:

“The pattern is generated from a specially designed algorithm, coded in openframeworks. The algorithm takes as input a digital photograph and outputs the knitting pattern. Over 2 billion calculations are needed to produce each pattern.”

For ‘inputs’, Vrellis used famous portraits by the famous Spanish Renaissance artist El Greco. Below you can see a timelapse video along with close-ups of Petros’ experimental knitting project. For more information check out his official website. If you’re interested in purchasing any of the original artworks you can see what’s currently available on Saatchi Art.

PETROS VRELLIS
Website | Instagram | Online Store
PETROS VRELLIS
Website | Instagram | Online Store
PETROS VRELLIS
Website | Instagram | Online Store
PETROS VRELLIS
Website | Instagram | Online Store
PETROS VRELLIS
Website | Instagram | Online Store
PETROS VRELLIS
Website | Instagram | Online Store
PETROS VRELLIS
Website | Instagram | Online Store

Read more: http://twistedsifter.com/2017/11/renaissance-portraits-made-from-single-thread-on-circular-loom/

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Unravelling Ropes Into Fractal-Like Patterns (10 Photos)

In an ongoing series of artworks entitled ‘Ciclotramas‘, Brazilian artist Janaina Mello Landini unravels ropes into incredible fractal patterns that evoke tree roots, river basins, lightning strikes and circulatory systems.

Landini has been developing this concept since 2010, using threads and strings to create site-specific installations that occupy the space in an immersive way. She adds:

The idea is to “unstitch†Time from its inside, unraveling the threads of the same rope in constant bifurcations, until the last indivisible stage is reached, a point that holds everything together in perfect equilibrium.

Below you will find our favourite Ciclotramas but be sure to check out her website for additional shots and dozens of more examples. Janaina is represented by the Zipper Gallery in São Paulo, Brazil

Janaina Mello Landini
Website | Gallery Representation

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Janaina Mello Landini
Website | Gallery Representation

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Janaina Mello Landini
Website | Gallery Representation

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Janaina Mello Landini
Website | Gallery Representation

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Janaina Mello Landini
Website | Gallery Representation

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Janaina Mello Landini
Website | Gallery Representation

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Janaina Mello Landini
Website | Gallery Representation

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Janaina Mello Landini
Website | Gallery Representation

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Janaina Mello Landini
Website | Gallery Representation

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Janaina Mello Landini
Website | Gallery Representation

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Janaina Mello Landini
Website | Gallery Representation

Read more: http://twistedsifter.com/2017/11/unravelling-ropes-into-fractal-like-patterns/

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The Lava Lamps That Help Keep The Internet Secure

At the headquarters of Cloudflare, in San Francisco, there’s a wall of lava lamps: the Entropy Wall. They’re used to generate random numbers and keep a good bit of the internet secure: here’s how.

For a technical overview of the Entropy Wall click here.

Video by YouTuber Tom Scott

Read more: http://twistedsifter.com/videos/the-lava-lamps-that-help-keep-the-internet-secure/

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Can you solve it? Secrets of Russian intelligence

Three puzzles that came in from the cold

Hi guzzlers,

Every day we read stories concerning the prowess of Russian hackers. But why are they so good? A clue may lie in the fact that Russia has long excelled in maths outreach, which has been instrumental in creating a supply of people with the right skills. More of this later. Meanwhile, here are three puzzles with Russian origins.

1. Find a solution to the equation

28x+ 30y + 31z = 365

where x, y, and z are positive whole numbers.

2. Place five stones on an 8×8 grid in such a way that every square consisting of 9 cells has only one stone in it.

3. A colony of chameleons on an island currently comprises 13 green, 15 blue and 17 red individuals. When two chameleons of different colours meet, they both change their colours to the third colour. Is it possible that all chameleons in the colony eventually have the same colour?

The first question was told to me recently by Nikolai Andreev, of the Steklov Mathematical Institute, part of the Russian Academy of Sciences. It should take you a few seconds to solve.

The second question is taken from a fantastic after-school programme run by three Russian emigres in London. They call themselves We Solve Problems, and use two approaches used in Russia: maths circles, in which students can delve deeper into topics, and maths battles, which are like the maths equivalent of a debating society. Check out their website, where secondary school children can apply to attend weekly maths battles in London free of charge.

The third question is a stunner. It was first set in 1984 in the International Mathematics Tournament of the Towns, a wonderful maths competition founded in 1980 in Russia that now involves students in more that 100 cities and towns around the world (but mostly in Russia). The idea is to test ingenuity, rather than rote learning.

Ill be back at 5pm with the solutions and full explanations. Da? No spoilers BTL please, but do talk about great Russian mathematicians, or any experiences with Russian teaching methods.

Page-turning
Page-turning Japanese, I really think so.

If you have read this far, you have already solved another puzzle. What to put on your Christmas list! My latest book Puzzle Ninja: Pit Your Wits against the Japanese Masters, contains more than 200 of the most original, beautiful and interesting puzzles that have been crafted in Japan over the last few years.

I set a puzzle here every two weeks on a Monday. Send me your email if you want me to alert you each time I post a new one. Im always on the look-out for great puzzles. If you would like to suggest one, email me.


Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/science/2017/nov/06/can-you-solve-it-secrets-of-russian-intelligence

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Alan Turing’s School Report Goes On Show As Part Of A New Exhibition

A school report of gay mathematician and war hero Alan Turing will be part of the new Codebreakers and Groundbreakers exhibition which opens this week at Cambridge’s Fitzwilliam Museum.

The report is from 1929 when Turing was 13 years old and it’s generally quite mixed. Several of Turing’s teachers praise him for his work but also note how hasty and messy some of it has been. He was strongest in his principal subjects (Chemistry, Mathematics, and Physics) and generally weaker in French and English.

“His work on Higher Certificate papers shows distinct promise, but he must realise that ability to put a neat and tidy solution on paper – intelligible and legible – is necessary for a first-rate mathematician,” his Math teacher wrote.

Alan Turing’s School Report from 1929. Sherborne School Archives. The Provost and Fellows of Kings College Cambridge

The exhibition will also feature the book Turing was given when he won the first Christopher Morcom Science Prize at Sherborne School. This was set up by Morcom’s parents in memory of their son who died in 1930 at the age of 18. Morcom is believed to have been Turing’s first love.

Turing’s work during the Second World War was instrumental in the decryption of German ciphers at the Bletchley Park facility, where he constructed electromechanical machines to quickly decode encrypted messages. Some historians estimate that the work that Turing and many other codebreakers (a lot of them were women) did at Bletchley Park shortened the war in Europe by at least four years.

He’s considered the founder of computer science and in 1950 he devised a test to evaluate a machine’s ability to exhibit intelligence. He called the test “the imitation game” and it’s currently referred to as the Turing test. This test has been proven to be a widely influential yet somewhat controversial topic in computer science.

Alan Turing was arrested and prosecuted in 1952 when being gay was a criminal offense in the United Kingdom. He chose to be chemically castrated to avoid prison. He died on June 7, 1954, of cyanide poisoning and his death was ruled as suicide. He was 42 years old. The British Government apologized for the appalling treatment of Alan Turing in 2009.

The book Alan Turing received when he won the first Christopher Morcom Science Prize. The Provost and Fellows of Kings College Cambridge

 

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/editors-blog/alan-turings-school-report-goes-on-show-as-part-of-a-new-exhibtion/

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Ivy League Academic Removed From Plane And Questioned After Passenger Spotted His Equations

Finally, the world is safe from Italian economists doing mathematics on a plane.

Alarm bells were rung last Thursday on a flight from Philadelphia to Ontario, after a passenger saw aman suspiciously writing down a complicated looking formula on a piece of paper and notified cabin crew. The passenger told flight attendants she was feeling ill, causing the flight to turnaround on the runway.

After some confusion, the mysterious mathematicsenthusiastwas taken off the flight and questioned by security agents.

Fortunately for international security, the man was actually Guido Menzio, an Italian-born associate professor in Economics at the University of Pennsylvania, who also happened to be a young, dark-haired, bearded, and slightly tanned male with a foreign accent on a plane.

Menzio told theAssociated Press: “I thought they were trying to get clues about her illness. Instead, they tell me that the woman was concerned that I was a terrorist because I was writing strange things on a pad of paper.”

His scrawlings were actually some last minute work on a differential equation that he was preparing for a lecture on Search Theory in Canada.

Aftertwo hours of questioning,Menzio,who said he was treated with respect,was able to explain himself to the security officials andwas allowed back onto the flight. The passenger who complained, however, did not return to the flight.

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/editors-blog/economist-gets-interrogated-writing-equations-airplane

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Can you solve it? Are you smarter than a forester?

A puzzle about planting trees

Hello guzzlers,

Your mission today is to design an arrangement of trees on a desert island, like the one below.

An
An aerial view of five trees on an island.

When there is a single tree, no matter where you stand on the island you will always be able to see exactly one tree.

An
An island with a single tree. From each of the two black dots you can see a single tree.

With two trees, however, there are some places where you can see two trees, and there are some places where you can see only a single tree, since the other one is blocked from view.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/science/2017/jul/31/can-you-solve-it-are-you-smarter-than-a-forester

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The world has lost a great artist in mathematician Maryam Mirzakhani

She was the only woman to have won the Fields medal, maths equivalent of the Nobel prize

The mathematician Maryam Mirzakhani died two weeks ago. Shewas 40. I had never heard of her before reading about her death in the papers. Its a piercingly sad story: Iranian-born, and latterly a professor at Stanford University, Mirzakhani was the only woman to have won the Fields medal, the equivalent for a mathematician of the Nobel prize, and is survived, in newspaper-speak, by a husband and a daughter.

I always find the locution survived by too cruel to bear. So final the rupture, no room for error: shes gone, theyre left. And, in this case, how young the mother and the wife.

It is a sad story for other reasons, too, not least the intensity of Mirzakhanis expression in the photograph most of the papers used. There is a beauty that can onlybe described as that of the minds migration to the face, the transfiguring beauty of exceptional intelligence. So its a double loss: thepremature loss of a person and the premature loss of her genius.

I remember there being an unspoken qualitative distinction atschool between those who were good at maths and science the priests of numbers and symbols and the more poetical of us, whose medium, as Wordsworth had it, was the language of men talking to men. The assumption, at least on the part of us Wordsworthians, was that creativity was all on our side. I have since come to think the word creative has much to answer for. Among the freedoms it sometimes gave us was the freedom from structure, knowledge and the obligation to convince.

Mirzakhani, it is said, considered being a writer before turning to mathematics. It is unlikely she believed shed made a choice in favour of an inferior, or less artistic, discipline. And she expressed her immersion in mathematics in language every writer will recognise like being lost in a jungle and trying to use all the knowledge you can gather to come up with some new tricks, and with luck you might find a way out.

The luck, of course, is no such thing. Its the mystery Keats called negative capability, the trust that the work will do itself if only we dareto plunge without irritability orinsistence into the dark, not sure we will find a way out at all. The bestwriting happens in this way, unintended, unknowing, grateful and surprised. Such abnegation of will is what we mean by creativity. So the mathematician and the artist are companioned in the same dark, and do obeisance to the same gods. The pity of Mirzakhanis death will be felt by poets as well as mathematicians.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/science/2017/jul/29/maryam-mirzakhani-great-artist-mathematician-fields-medal-howard-jacobson

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Can you solve it? Are you smarter than an architect?

A puzzle that tests 3D thinking

Hi guzzlers,

Todays puzzle was sent in by a reader who remembers it from his days as an architecture student.

Draw a 3-dimensional picture of a shape that goes through each of these holes, exactly touching all sides as it passes through.

A
A triangle with sides 1 unit. A square with sides 1 unit. A circle with diameter 1 unit.

Architects will surely find the answer obvious. The heads of the rest of us will look rather like the house in the picture above, since it requires you to visualise an object in three dimensions, which is a challenge if your brain isnt trained to do it.

If you want to email me your answer, or post it on Twitter with the hashtag #MondayPuzzle, Ill send the author of my favourite image a copy of my puzzle book Can You Solve My Problems?

Ill be back at 5pm UK time with the solution.

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I set a puzzle here every two weeks on a Monday. Send me your email if you want me to alert you each time I post a new one. Im always on the look-out for great puzzles. If you would like to suggest one, email me.

My puzzle book Can You Solve My Problems? is just out in paperback.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/science/2017/jul/17/can-you-solve-it-are-you-smarter-than-an-architect

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