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article imageEssential Science: Interesting patterns and number science

By Tim Sandle     Mar 29, 2021 in Science
Numbers are important. They are needed for measurements and calculations, and they help to process how we think about the world and interact with others. For this week’s column, we look at new developments in maths.
When assessing scientific rigor in terms of numbers and patterns, it is important to keep away from anything connected to ‘numerology’, which is the study that draws meaning from different numbers, number combinations, letters, and symbols in your life. In other words, superstitious practice. In contrast, mathematics is the science of numbers and there are several different branches of mathematical science including algebra, geometry, and calculus.
Having a basic familiarity with numbers is essential for understanding the world and for interpreting the news, and especially when seeking to challenge one viewpoint with an alternative one. This could be for discussing be the size of the Greenland ice sheet, inquiring about the number of molecules in a raindrop, or challenging an oil company’s take on the rate of climate change presented in the media.
In this week’s Essential Science, we look at some interesting findings in relations to numbers and maths.
Numbers in society
The pattern of events is shaped by numbers, including the number of times an event is repeated in terms of its significance. In journalism, for example, a common saying runs: “Once is chance, twice is coincidence, third time is a trend.”
A variant of this phrase is also used by Ian Fleming in Goldfinger: “Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three times is enemy action.” Similar sayings form part of the so-called Moscow rules, which were said to have been developed during the Cold War to be used by spies and others working in Moscow.
Spy Museum
Brandon Darby, whom members accuse of violent behavior, spied for the FBI on a Hurricane Katrina recovery group he founded, on incident involving last year's Republic convention. Perhaps he wants permanent recognition FBI
Yet numbers across society vary. Take a point where science (nutrition) and culture marry up – the number of portions of fruit and vegetables that should be eaten each day in order to keep healthy.
In the UK, for over two decades, the British government has championed the eating of five portions of fruit and vegetables each day (albeit without coming down on the side of this being three pieces of fruit and two portions of vegetables or vice versa).
However, World Health Organization data finds that the lowest levels of heart disease and cancers are linked to a diet that is made up of around 10 portions a day. In the middle is Greece, where the government recommends portions of vegetables and three of fruit.
The coronavirus pandemic has introduced a number into the general lexicon, one that indicates the rate of transmission of the virus in society.
India recorded more than 50 000 new coronavirus cases on Thursday for the first time since November ...
India recorded more than 50,000 new coronavirus cases on Thursday for the first time since November and is struggling to keep up with its own faltering vaccine drive
Prakash SINGH, AFP
This is the basic reproduction number, expressed as R0 (the zero is typicaly written in subcript). The higher the number, the more infectious a pathogen is at a given point in time. For example, if the R0 is 4, then the number of cases will quadruple every seven days or double every three days.
The R-number is not only relative to time, it is also a product of space. As geography and culture affect how many people we encounter daily, how much we touch them and share food with them, estimates of R0 will naturally vary between locales.
The accuracy of the R-number is based on testing (in the context of test methods varying in their accuracy by their type) and reporting (where there are quality differences). Hence, the R-number can only ever be an approximation.
Using math to investigate possibility of time travel
Is it possible to travel in time? Perhaps, an mathematical models can reveal the extent that this sci-fi concept could be reaized.
Research undertaken at the University of British Columbia Okanagan campus has developed a mathematical model for a viable time machine, at least one that can travel backwards in time. This theoretical device has been named as : a Traversable Acausal Retrograde Domain in Space-time. For those familiar with the television program Doctor Who, it is notable that the name of the devise spells out the same acronym as the Doctor’s own machine for travelling in time and space -TARDIS (albeit that the fictional TARDIS stands for something different).
The Doctor s TARDIS materialises at London s Heathrow Airport  2013
The Doctor's TARDIS materialises at London's Heathrow Airport, 2013
The research is based around a bubble of space-time geometry which carries its contents backward and forwards through space and time as it tours a large circular path. The bubble moves through space-time at speeds greater than the speed of light at times, allowing it to move backward in time.
In essence, the research is based on the application of curved space-time. This principle would be used to bend time into a circle, in terms of what is experienced by the passengers, rather than the progression of time in a straight line for those not on-board the vehicle. It is this circle that takes passengers back in time.
The research appears in the journal Classical and Quantum Gravity, where the research paper is titled “Traversable acausal retrograde domains in spacetime.”
New maths formula makes airborne chemicals less hazardous
Mathematics can help to control the toxicity of chemicals, according to a study from Purdue University. Here mathematicians have worked out a mechanism to calculate surface viscosity by observing a stretched droplet as it starts to break.
Farmer spraying pesticides on crop.
Farmer spraying pesticides on crop.
The significance of this will lead to a reduction in the unintended effects of crop spraying. These days drones are used on large farms to spray pesticides over miles of crops. The downside is where the method ends up polluting the environment when wind carries the mist off-target. By achieving more precise control of a liquid-like substance, the degree to which this happens can be considerably reduced.
See: “Effects of Surface Viscosity on Breakup of Viscous Threads”. Published in Physical Review Letters.
Essential Science
This article forms part of Digital Journal's long running Essential Science series. Each week we take a more detailed look at an important and topical science subject.
Hunting and human encroachment saw the Asiatic lion population plunge to just 20 by 1913
Hunting and human encroachment saw the Asiatic lion population plunge to just 20 by 1913
Last week, the subject was digital technology and machine learning. These processes offer insights in understanding how animals behave and act, and also how they learn. In recent months some interesting scientific studies have been produced.
The week before, the subject was a commonly grown plant, and one that attracts the interest of some felines, could provide the basis for addressing insect problems. The plant of interest is catnip and this mint related plant can repel mosquitoes.
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