Friday, December 26, 2003

The Mathematics of Christmas

Marcus de Sautoy has an amusing little article up on the Telegraph website, using the old carol about the 12 days of Christmas to illustrate Gauss' childhood ingenuity in coming up with a formula for summing arithmetic series at the age of 10.

Going along in a mathematical vein, but aiming now at a rather more sophisticated audience, it may be of interest to some of you to learn that Catalan's Conjecture, which states that 8 (=23) and 9 (=32) are the only consecutive perfect powers amongst the natural numbers, has been proven, by Preda Mihailescu. Strange that I've seen no mention of this in any of the major newspapers, given how simple it is to state the problem for laymen.