Category: Mathematics

Canadian Mathematicians Model Zombie Outbreak

By Sam Lowry | September 3, 2009 5:46 pm

Maybe because I’m still watching the True Blood Season 1 DVD and have to hold my ears whenever it comes up in conversation, but I think the vampire phenomenon has sort of played itself out.

I predict we’re going to look back at the release of the original, Swedish Let the Right One In as the vampires’ artistic high point.  I also predict that the release of the American version will mark the end of the whole bloody, sexy craze.

So what’s next for fans of the undead?  Zombies.

Anticipating public demand for a government response to the growing threat, mathematicians at the University of Ottawa have published an epidemiological model of an outbreak of zombie infection. [viaTalking Squid]

This comes just a few months after the Boston Police confirmed via Twitter that they would promptly inform the public in the event of a zombie attack.  [via Consumerist]

And we’re just one month away from the release of the new Woody Harrelson movie Zombieland.  I’m telling you, people.  Zombies.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Biology, Mathematics
MORE ABOUT: Zombieland, Zombies

Science Fiction Goes Vegas, Baby!

By Stephen Cass | January 14, 2009 7:39 pm

New Star Wars and Star Trek slot machinesWhile DISCOVER was in Las Vegas last week covering the Consumer Electronics Show, I noticed two science-fiction themed slot machines. The Star Wars machine has been out for about 18 months, the Star Trek machine was only unveiled about six months ago.

Even though my perfectly reasonable request to DISCOVER’s powers-that-be for a small research fund to investigate these machines was mysteriously refused (it’s all office politics here), I still felt obligated to try them out on your behalf, loyal readers, so I pulled up a chair and stuck in my hard-earned.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Mathematics, Utter Nerd

Greg Egan's Incandescence: Upping the Relativistic Ante

By Stephen Cass | September 3, 2008 11:57 am

Cover image of Greg Egan’s “Incandescence”Hot on the heels of last week’s posts about using 100 per cent proof real science in science fiction (Special Relativity in particular), Night Shade Books sent me a copy of Greg Egan‘s recently released novel Incandescence. Greg Egan writes what can be called hard space opera. The space opera part comes from the fact that his books are set on a galaxy-sized canvas, and most of his protagonists are members of fantastically advanced civilizations. The “hard” part refers to hard science fiction — the physical laws followed and natural objects found within this type of story are written to be as close to scientifically accurate as possible.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Books, Mathematics, Space

Eureka and Special Relativity: If Carter Can Do It, So Can You!

By Stephen Cass | August 26, 2008 3:45 pm

Screen capture from Euraka Season Three, Episode FourAs chance would have it, the night after writing this post about the equations shown in science fiction, an episode of Eureka aired in which Sheriff Carter was faced with the pictured board full of equations.

Carter, not the most technical of men, had to learn the equations in order to have chance at stopping a runaway time-loop. The equations looked familiar, so I checked in with Kevin Grazier, Eureka‘s science advisor, a JPL researcher, and a panelist on DISCOVER’s “Science Behind Science Fiction” Panel at this year’s Comic-Con. It turns out that Kevin actually wrote the equations, borrowed from a real class he gives that touches on the theories of special and general relativity. The equations refer to how time behaves in Einstein’s relativity theory, in particular, the phenomenon of time dilation. The neat part is that pretty much anybody who finished high school can master the math and science behind special relativity’s prediction of time dilation (as the title of this post says, if Carter can do it, so can you!).

Time dilation occurs noticeably when a object is moving close to the speed of light: imagine a spacecraft shooting by the Earth. From the point of view of someone standing on Earth, time dilation means that time is running slowly onboard the spacecraft. A second on the spaceship could be equal to an hour on Earth. (Time dilation has been experimentally verified using subatomic particles and particle accelerators, but the principle is the same.) The key is this one part of the board, which I’ve highlighted.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Mathematics, TV
MORE ABOUT: Eureka, Relativity

Equation Answers

By Stephen Cass | August 20, 2008 5:29 pm

Scientific Equation 1Okay, here we go! Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Mathematics
MORE ABOUT: Equations

Propmasters Beware: It's Actual Equation Time!

By Stephen Cass | August 19, 2008 4:55 pm

Screenshot from Dr Horrible’s Sing-Along-BlogWe’ve all watched the scene. Maybe it’s the scientist character trying to provide a huge dollop of exposition to the rest of the team, maybe it’s in a montage as the cast grope towards the breakthrough that will drive Act II.

Whatever it is, it features a blackboard / whiteboard / cave wall covered in equations that supposedly relate to the situation at hand. Some shows—such as Numb3rs—really try to match what’s on the board to the plot. Others just pick science equations at random, or delegate a junior props guy to scribble a grab-bag of greek letters and math symbols on the board. But can people really tell the difference? What follows are some equations (and hints) that relate to classic science-fiction scenarios — see if you can identify them. Answers and explanations tomorrow.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Mathematics
MORE ABOUT: Equations, Numb3rs, props
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