Mathematical Musings

Inspired by real events…

Accessible articles on mathematical topics inspired by everyday life (or by some approximation of everyday life).

Secreter Santa
Building on the method in my book The Indisputable Existence of Santa Claus: The Mathematics of Christmas (written with Dr Hannah Fry), I discuss the secretest possible Secret Santa.

Understanding an abused unit – the kilometre hour
In France, it is common to refer to “kilometres per hour” as “kilomètre-heures”. I find this deeply mathematically troubling. But what is a kilometre hour really? With turtles!

US Electoral Maths – Seeing the funny side
Back in 2012, I did some stand-up comedy on the maths of the US presidential election. See the video here, with a brief discussion of the maths (or perhaps an apology for the maths).

How much is a set worth in tennis?
A simple analysis of the how much winning or losing a set affects your probability of victory in a tennis match.

The worst tennis players of the millennium
The structure of a knockout tournament dictates that for every champion, there is a corresponding anti-champion.

Some very Pointless maths
An accessible article on a mathematical sequence arising from the episodes of the BBC TV quiz show Pointless.

Even more Pointless maths
A follow-up with even more on the Pointless mathematical sequence. Our investigation involves simulating enough episodes of Pointless to keep the show on air for over eight thousand years.

The electoral maths may favour Labour, but by how much…?
Posted in the run up to the 2015 UK general election. I raise some queries about two very interesting articles on Labour’s electoral prospects from the excellent political site May2015.

Mathematical messing around

The results of going off on irrelevant mathematical tangents.

Fractal factorials!!!
While messing around with the factorial function, I stumbled across some incredibly beautiful fractal images.

A revolutionary new equation
A video. An equation. Fifty-eight seconds. A bit of fun.

Covering all the bases
What is special about the number 82000? A tricky and surprising mathematical sequence.

Is the answer to this question obvious…?
What is the answer to this square tiling problem? Seriously, I don’t know.

Seek, locate, investigate

Investigations into intriguing mathematical facts, questions and puzzles that I have come across (often on Twitter).

Queues of Cubes
The mean of 3 consecutive cubes is always an integer, but what about 4 consecutive 4th powers, 5 consecutive 5th powers or 117 consecutive 117th powers? Let’s get proving.

Diabolical Digits
You can find all sorts of things in the digits of Pi. Sometimes the discoveries may seem quite surprising, but are they really that unexpected…?

Beautiful roots
A quick investigation of the “Rachael formula”, a coincidental equation that links square roots and mixed numbers in an aesthetically satisfying way.

Cards on the table
Deal a pack of playing cards into 13 piles of 4, face up. Can you reorder each pile so that the 13 top cards form a complete straight? A mathematical puzzle solved using colouring in.

Squares, primes and the numerical stratosphere
Can a square number ever consist of the same string of digits repeated (e.g. 118118)? A number theory investigation featuring an unexpected cameo from a topic at the cutting edge of maths.

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