Category Archives: mathematics

Mad Max Economics

Writing in The New York Times, the business columnist Eduardo Porter quotes Paul Ehrlich quoting Kenneth Boulding: “Anyone who believes exponential growth can go on forever in a finite world is either a madman or an economist.” Then Porter, siding … Continue reading

Posted in mathematics, social science | 12 Comments

Ramsey Theory in the Dining Room

Friends were coming for dinner, and we would be eight at the table. When I pulled the wine glasses out of the cupboard, I found quite a miscellaneous array of stemware—an equilibrium distribution reached after many years of occasional additions … Continue reading

Posted in mathematics, modern life | 9 Comments

The long run

The other day I went over to Danehy Park in Cambridge, which has a fine 400-meter running track. I did four laps at my usual plodding pace. Here is my path, as recorded by an iPhone app called Runmeter: No, … Continue reading

Posted in computing, mathematics | 13 Comments

Pumping the Primes

On your desktop is a black box. Actually it’s an orange box, because black boxes are usually painted “a highly visible vermilion colour known as international orange.” In any case, it’s an opaque box: You can’t see the whirling gears … Continue reading

Posted in computing, mathematics | 11 Comments

Traffic Jams in Javascript

Building bigger roads can make traffic worse. The usual explanation for this counter­intuitive and counterproductive outcome is that bigger roads attract bigger shopping malls, which in turn attract more cars. But that’s not the whole story. In the 1960s Dietrich … Continue reading

Posted in computing, featured, mathematics, modern life | 12 Comments