Why No Century Will Ever Start on a Sunday, Wednesday or Friday

The Gregorian calendar is full of wonderful mathematical quirks, and here's one of them: under its regime, a century will never start on a Sunday. Or a Wednesday or Friday, for that matter. » 3/31/15 6:00am Yesterday 6:00am

Math explains the best way to shuffle a deck of cards and why

Everyone who has played poker or even Go Fish knows the basics of shuffling cards. There's the riffle shuffle (combining two halves of a decks and making a bridge), overhand shuffling (quickly splicing cards from the deck back into the deck) and regular ol' mixing all the cards up on a table. Which way is the best? » 3/23/15 7:36pm 3/23/15 7:36pm

How Understanding Probability Could Save Your Life

The laws of probability seems simple at first thought, but scratch the surface and their inner truth can be rather more counterintuitive. This video describes one of those situations—and the answer might prove more useful than you think. » 3/12/15 7:00am 3/12/15 7:00am

Why You Should Always Catch the Coin to Make a Toss Fair

When you throw a coin in the air to make a decision, you'd expect the outcome of the toss to be 50-50 whether you catch it or let it land on the ground. But, according to randomness expert Persi Diaconis, that's simply not true. » 2/02/15 8:00am 2/02/15 8:00am

How to Win Every Game of Dots and Boxes

So, you want ensure you always win whenever you play the wonderful time-waster that is Dots and Boxes? The secrets, believe it or not, is not to get greedy. » 1/13/15 3:30am 1/13/15 3:30am

The Physics of Why You Get Confused When You Reverse a Car

Driving forwards is easy. Reversing is... weirdly much trickier. This video from Minute Physics explains why you shouldn't feel dumb about it—because it's all down to physics working against you. » 12/16/14 4:15am 12/16/14 4:15am

How Pixar Uses Math to Make Characters Look Perfect

It probably won't surprise you that Pixar uses some good old fashioned mathematics in the 3D animation process. What might surprise you is just how much they use math to ensure that their characters look and move perfectly. And Pixar researcher Tony DeRose is great at explaining just that. » 11/11/14 12:22pm 11/11/14 12:22pm

Why We Use "X" as the Unknown in Math

For hundreds of years, x has been the go-to symbol for the unknown quantity in mathematical equations. So who started this practice? » 11/11/14 8:40am 11/11/14 8:40am

The Century-Old Machine That Gave Us MP3s and JPEGs

Back in 1894, Olaus Henrici invented a machine called the Harmonic Analyzer. Way ahead of its time, it could pick out all the individual frequencies that make up complex sound waves—a technique we now rely on for everything from compressed audio to digital images. » 11/11/14 8:20am 11/11/14 8:20am

How Do People Estimate Crowd Sizes?

Although the task of determining how many people attend something as large as say, a political rally or a protest may seem like a daunting, almost impossible undertaking to do with any accuracy, with some basic information, it's actually not that difficult to get reasonably accurate results. » 11/07/14 8:15am 11/07/14 8:15am

Genius app instantly solves math problems by using a phone's camera

I've seen the future and it is math less and it is awesome and it is this PhotoMath app that solves math problems just by pointing your phone's camera at them. It's like a cross between a text reading camera, a supremely sophisticated calculator and well, the future. Point and solve and never do math again. » 10/21/14 9:02pm 10/21/14 9:02pm

Keeping Bike Shares Running Smoothly Requires Seriously Complex Math

Here's kind of a dirty secret about bike share: Bikes don't end up distributed evenly across the system, so most cities use trucks and trailers to shuffle the bikes around to the kiosks where they're needed most at different times of day. Turns out it requires a complicated algorithm to determine exactly when and… » 8/27/14 7:15pm 8/27/14 7:15pm

How to Fix a Wobbly Table Using Math

We've all been sat drinking a beer only to realize that the table wobbles irritatingly. But while a piece of folded paper can solve the problem for a few minutes, there is a better solution—and it uses some simple math. » 8/19/14 5:00am 8/19/14 5:00am

These Typefaces Are Tiny Math Puzzles Made by MIT Scientists

When quickly sending an email, creating a company logo, or writing a post about mathematical typefaces, hundreds of thousands of fonts exist to help express a specific mood or feeling though we rarely escape the realm of a well-known few. Although it's well-documented that creating fonts can be an art, two… » 8/14/14 3:43pm 8/14/14 3:43pm

The New Fields Medal Winner Was Inspired By a Rubik's Cube

The Field medal is mathematics' answer to the Nobel Prize, and this year's winners have just been announced. Amongst them is Manjul Bhargava, one of the youngest people to be made a full professor at Princeton University, aged 28, whose work is inspired by... the Rubik's Cube? » 8/13/14 8:00am 8/13/14 8:00am

A Computer Has Finally Proven the Answer to a 400-Year-Old Math Problem

Way back in 1611, Johannes Kepler suggested that the most efficient way to stack spheres—like arranging oranges for sale—was in a pyramid formation. Sadly, he couldn't prove it, but now a computer has finally verified it to be true, settling centuries of debate. » 8/12/14 9:06am 8/12/14 9:06am

The Powerful Equations That Explain the Patterns We See in Nature

Where do a zebra's stripes, a leopard's spots and our fingers come from? The key was found years ago – by the man who cracked the Enigma code. » 8/12/14 8:15am 8/12/14 8:15am

What's the Most Boring Number?

To any good nerd, numbers are inherently interesting, whether they're square, primes, part of the Fibonacci sequence... whatever. But some numbers aren't so special—so what's the most boring one? » 8/12/14 3:00am 8/12/14 3:00am

The Easy Way to Know the Height of the Cliff You're Jumping Off

So you fancy yourself a pretty good cliff-jumper. You always personally inspect your landing spot for hazards and the necessary depth. Good. But here's the thing, how do you know how much depth you need unless you know exactly how high you're jumping from? With NASA smarts, that's how. » 8/05/14 12:14pm 8/05/14 12:14pm