Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Maths that makes you go “Hmmm”

Mathematics often puzzles me.  Sometimes it also makes me wonder.  We get accustomed to the Fibonacci sequence and the Golden Ratio appearing in nature so often that we cease to register just how remarkable this actually is and sometimes fail to ask ourselves why this should be.  

Sometimes it takes something new to bring us to a fresh realisation that the presence of some forms of mathematics in nature is not only unexpected but  possibly unexplainable.  Some unexpected occurrences of  mathematics are truly remarkable.  The following clip provides a worthy example.

It is taken from the BBC series “Why Maths doesn’t add up” and features
features Marcus du Sautoy,  Professor of Mathematics at Oxford and Simonyi Chair for the Public Understanding of Science with actor, comedian and maths fall guy  Alan Davies. Early in the clip we see a graph first devised by Bernhard Riemann showing the random distribution of prime numbers. In this excerpt  the pair see what happens to the vibrations of a sphere of quartz when the quartz is struck with a ball bearing.    Quite unexpectedly the two graphs are startlingly similar.

As du Sautoy says in the clip, the similarity of the graphs is so striking that “it can not be a co-incidence”.

So if it isn’t a co-incidence...what is it?

Perhaps in pondering such “oddities” we will also remember that the “common” occurrence of the Fibonaci sequence and the Golden Ratio in nature are also worth of contemplation.  

I believe it is this sense of wonderment and intrigue that we need to impart to our students as much as computational skills and procedural understanding.

If you enjoyed this post you may enjoy my other maths related posts which are compiled on my maths page - accessible via the home page or by clicking here.

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