Since 1939 an author named Nicolas Bourbaki has published a series of volumes on pure mathematics. But Bourbaki does not exist.
In 1939 a student at UC Berkeley copied down two homework problems from the class blackboard. He solved them in a few days… and then discovered that they were two of the thorniest unsolved theorems in statistics.
A billionth of a century is approximately pi seconds. The diameter of the Earth is roughly half a billion inches.
Put 70 people in a room and there’s a 99.9% chance that two of them share a birthday. Why?
The Ishango bone, found in what is today part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and dating back 20,000 years, may contain some of the earliest evidence of mathematical thought.
The set of natural numbers is infinite: 1, 2, 3…. The set of real numbers is also infinite: 0.1, 0.11, 0.12, 0.2… but it’s larger than the infinity of natural numbers. Georg Cantor devised an elegant argument to prove these different infinities.
Masaccio’s Holy Trinity is possibly the earliest surviving work of art to use a single vanishing point. His work and that of Brunelleschi triggered a Renaissance explosion of mathematical perspective in art.
Consider three special dice: A, B, and C. On a fair roll, A is more likely to beat B. B is more likely to beat C. But C is more likely to beat A. These are nontransitive dice.
In 1997, professor of mathematics and crochet enthusiast Daina Taimiņa found a way to join those two passions in order to craft durable sections of hyperbolic surfaces.
Consider a medical test for a disease suffered by 1% of the population, which has a 5% “false positive” error rate. If you test positive, what are the chances that you are actually ill? In fact, it’s less than 17%.
The Indian mathematician Mādhava was the first to use infinite series to calculate pi, some time around 1400 CE.
According to a popular myth, the solution of a 64-piece Tower of Hanoi puzzle will herald the end of the world.
The closest approximation of Pi for nearly a thousand years was calculated by Chinese mathematician Zu Chongzhi around 480 CE, using an algorithm developed by Liu Hui.
Take a cone, sphere, and cylinder of equal height and radius. The volume of the cone plus the volume of the sphere is equal to the volume of the cylinder.
Within the first thousand digits of pi there are six nines in a row. This should not be a surprise.
The cellular automaton Langton’s Ant follows just two simple commands, and in doing so moves in turn from symmetry to chaos to implacable order.