Mathematics

A desire to be part of the 'in crowd' could damage our ability to make the right decisions, according to a paper in the
journal Interface which claims that individuals have evolved to be overly influenced by their neighbors, rather than rely on their own instinct.

As a result, they believe, groups become less responsive to changes in their natural environment. So much for the wisdom of crowds.


When it comes to math, people mis-characterize themselves quite often. About 20 percent of the people who say they are bad at math score in the top half of tests while about 33 percent of people who say they are good at math score in the bottom half.


In the classical game theory match-up known as the Prisoner’s Dilemma, two prisoners kept isolated from each other are offered a deal: they can confess to a crime and if their accomplice remains silent the charges will be dropped in exchange for testimony against the other. If they both confess, they can both get early parole. If both remain silent, they get convicted of a lesser charge.

There is such a thing as 'too precise' when it comes to numbers. So what's appropriate? Erik Olsson, CC BY-NC-SA

By Jonathan Borwein (Jon), University of Newcastle and David H. Bailey, University of California, Davis


Kelly Abbott/Flickr, CC BY-NC

By Tim Trudgian, Australian National University

Consider a standard pizza box containing a standard circular pizza. How much more would you be willing to pay for a square pizza that filled the box?

The golden ratio is known as the divine proportion because it is found so often in nature. It has fascinated mathematicians since Euclid. A golden ratio is when the ratio of two numbers is the same as the ratio of their sum to the larger of the two quantities.


Credit: Wikipedia

Represented by the Greek letter phi (φ), its value is 1.61803399.

In a famous mathematical thought experiment, the goal is to make randomness deterministic by closed-form equation, so mathematicians tried to determine the path of a 'drunken sailor' staggering around a town. 

If there are street lamps, he will run into them, change his direction and keep moving until he gets out of the city. Logically, the time he spends in the area depends on the number of street lamps but the surprising answer is that the number of streetlamps are not the big factor.


Vaccines are medical technology and like all technology some of the production runs are misfires. Some shots fail due to "leakiness," lack of effectiveness on certain individuals in a population, or shorter duration of potency.


In the 1980s, a press release writer for an environmental group pulled a metric for meat and fossil fuel usage out of the air. It made its way into a book written by an activist and ever since then the concept of 'embedded' emissions has been used by anti-meat proponents.

"It takes a gallon of gas to make a pound of beef" is easy to remember. It is elegant. It is also completely wrong. Regardless, the virtual environmental cost of meat became a craze and it was soon followed by virtual water. The virtual water in the grain in just one part of Egypt is more than all of the water in the Nile so the concept falls apart rather quickly when it comes to the real world but scholars are still broadening the concept out to new areas.


Humans are primarily social creatures - Thoreau may have pretended he wanted to sit among nature by himself and write a book but he was in a house built by someone else, paid for by someone else, with clothes made by someone else, and writing a book that would be published by someone else.

People band together in groups to be stronger - about causes or for actual defense. How to prompt people to become social rather than anti-social is one of the central goals of game theory.