prime time

Yesterday evening, the clock on my phone tried to convince me that the New year was here hours before it was due. Then time appeared to whizz by and what seemed to be a mere minute later the display read 2018, 31st December.

It was all a bit confusing and I certainly needed that extra second of 2016 to work out what was going on.
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stars and stats

The poetry course that I’m taking started with a discussion of sand and stars. More precisely, with the statement that there are ten times as many stars in the universe than there are grains of sand on Earth. (If you’re interested, here’s the maths that backs up the estimate.) I don’t think we mentioned, though, that there are more atoms in a single grain of sand than there are stars in the universe.

Either way, macrocosmos or microcosmos, a number that big is hard to comprehend, and the human brain tends to look for simplifications and ideas closer to home.

I’ve just been out in the garden and, unlikely as it seems, I suppose I’ll just have to assume there are more stars in the universe than there are blossoms on the plum tree.

plum blossom

millions and billions

Rabbit reading by Lance Tooks
drawing courtesy Lance Tooks

I was intrigued by the BBC website Magazine story entitled Do the dead outnumber the living?

My attention was caught in particular by the table at the end showing a total for the number of people who have ever lived as 107,602,707,791.
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of poetry, maths and cars

moon  behind bare tree with pines
Although I was brought up surrounded by poetry, I don’t remember being aware that any of the adults around me actually wrote poems; not even light verse. Not until I was studying for A levels, that is.
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of maths and chocolates

This labelling on a box of ‘chocolates and toffees’ makes me want to reach for a pen and paper and start drawing Venn diagrams:

chocolate package label

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a week is a long time in science

poster - semana de la ciencia

When I went to university, it was still obligatory for all students to have basic maths and English qualifications, whatever they were going to study. Even today, I’d be surprised if you could become “a scientist” (whatever that might mean) without knowing some simple arithmetic.

So how come the Madrid Science Week is scheduled to last from 8th to 21st of November? My calculations make that 13 nights/14 days, which is a lot longer than a week.

(Note that isnt really a ‘fortnight’, though, as that would be 14 nights, equivalent to the Spanish quincena which is 15 days.)

noble winners

After yesterday’s “race day“, it seems only fair to spend a few moments thinking about winners. Specifically about Nobel prize winners. And, more specifically, about mathematicians who have won Nobel prizes. (Note that there is no Nobel prize for mathematics.)

Sundays newspaper (El Público) ran a story on Echegaray, who they rightly said sounds more like a street name than anything else. He was a mathematician, but he won the Nobel prize for literature.

echegaray clipping
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