The Twisted Logic Behind Why Airlines Sell Too Many Tickets

Each year, tens of thousands of passengers get bumped from their scheduled flights because of overbooking. A new video from TED-Ed explains why companies do it, and why you have a right to be pissed off when it happens.

Digital Music Couldn't Exist Without the Fourier Transform

This is the Fourier Transform. You can thank it for providing the music you stream every day, squeezing down the images you see on the Internet into tiny little JPG files, and even powering your noise-canceling headphones. Here’s how it works.

Mathematicians Discovered Something Super Freaky About Prime Numbers

Mathematicians have discovered a surprising pattern in the expression of prime numbers, revealing a previously unknown “bias” to researchers.

Sorry, the Riemann Hypothesis Has Almost Certainly Not Been Solved

Rumors are swirling that Opeyemi Enoch, a professor from the Federal University of Oye Ekiti in Nigeria, has solved the Riemann Hypothesis, a problem that has vexed mathematicians for over 150 years. Too bad it’s not true.

This Professor Can Teach Anyone Calculus Using These Simple, Beautiful Animations

Calculus: A word that triggers involuntary fear spasms in the best of us. But the days of slogging through tedious textbook derivatives are over, if you want them to be. For the past few years, people across the world have studied calculus for free online, by exploring a set of gorgeous, dynamic animations.

Physicists Discover "Hidden Chaos" Lurking Everywhere

It appears that the standard tools used to identify chaotic signatures might be missing lots of hidden chaos — especially in systems that seem like they’re not chaotic at all.

Solving an "Unsolvable" Math Problem

Until recently, there were just 14 known convex pentagons (nonregular, five-sided shapes with outward-pointing angles) that could “tile the plane” (be arranged with flush sides on a flat surface, with no gaps or overlaps). But last month, some thirty years since the 14th was discovered, a 15th was identified.

Can You Outwit Tens of Thousands of New York Times Readers?

Here’s a fantastic exercise in thinking about thinking: The Upshot at the NYT is hosting an interactive puzzle that pits you against every other person who attempts the puzzle. It’s... a bit of a mind game.

Is Having A Baby More Depressing Than A Death In the Family?

A study of new parents out of Germany makes the claim that having a baby is more hazardous to mental well-being than divorce or the death of a partner.

‘They will never make a movie about him. He doesn’t have a troubled life. He has a family, and they seem happy, and he’s usually smiling.’’ A student describes the “super normal” Terry Tao, one of the world’s greatest mathematicians, in a recent NYT Mag longread, which, ICYMI, is outstanding. Read it here.

Can You Solve Isaac Newton's Tree Puzzle?

This week’s puzzle is not about gravity, though you’d be excused for suspecting as much. After all, when most people read “Isaac Newton” and “tree” in the same sentence, they think also of falling apples. But this week’s puzzle, which is widely attributed to Newton, is actually an exercise in orderly arboriculture.

New Evidence That Sending People to Prison Makes Crime Worse

There’s a saying that there’s nothing like going to prison to turn you into a criminal. But now, a new study offers evidence that this homily is statistically sound. Every year a person is kept in prison increases their odds of committing another crime when they are released.

How to Bake Pi Uses Math to Solve the Cookbook Paradox

There is a lie running through your cookbooks. No, it’s not that you can substitute crackers for apples in your pie and no one will know the difference (though, come on, let’s be decent to each other, folks: Knock that off.) The lie goes much deeper than all that, and is the source of what I call the Cookbook Paradox.

A Dastardly Application of the Prisoner's Dilemma

The following “opportunity” appears in a survey posted on a University of Maryland domain. We don’t know what class this problem was intended for (given its nature, we’d guess maths, econ, or psych). What we do know is we like this teacher’s style.

Dividing 1 by This Big Number Gives You the Fibonacci Sequence. Why?

After dividing 1 by 999-quattuordecillion (a number that’s 48 integers long), you get the Fibonacci sequence presented in neat, 24-digit strings. Here’s why that happens.

Why Cooking Is A Lot Like Mathematics

I’ve come to believe that mathematics, as an investigative science, as a practical discipline and as a creative art, shares many characteristics with cookery. It’s not just spaghetti alla carbonara, it’s the whole business of inventing dishes and preparing them. It’s an analogy with many parts, and it has consequences.

A Little Number Theory Makes The Times Table A Thing Of Beauty

Most people will probably remember the times tables from primary school quizzes. There might be patterns in some of them (the simple doubling of the 2 times table) but others you just learnt by rote. And it was never quite clear just why it was necessary to know what 7 x 9 is off the top of your head.

Can You Figure Out How To Survive This Week's Puzzle?

This week’s puzzle puts you at the mercy of an unjust torturer. Explaining why he is unjust can help you make sense of a daunting mathematical proof that last year made headlines for being “bigger than Wikipedia.”

New Simulation Shows How The Pacific Islands May Have Been Colonized

The 24 major island groups of the Pacific Ocean were settled by early Austronesians between 3,500 and 900 years ago, but little is known about how these isolated islands were colonized. Now, researchers have used epidemiological modeling to devise some compelling new ideas about how it was done.