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Academic Insights for the Thinking World

Brain front matter

Today’s Forecast: Cloudy with a chance of seizures

For people suffering from recurrent epileptic seizures, one of the most burdensome aspects of their condition is the unpredictability of their seizures. While medications, surgery, and novel neurostimulation methods can eliminate seizures seizures in some cases, many people with epilepsy face the possibility of a seizure at any time, even when they occur only rarely.

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9780198719410

Doing it with sensitivity

I’m sure you’ve had this experience. You want to get somewhere, say a concert, or a public building, and all the people are stopped by security officials, who ask to search your bag. They open it, maybe take out one or two items, then glance around inside the rest, before giving it back to you and letting you go.

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Can design thinking challenge the scientific method?

The scientific method has long reigned as the trusted way to test hypotheses so as to produce new knowledge. Shaped by the likes of Francis Bacon, Galileo Galilei, and Ronald A. Fisher, the idea of replicable controlled experiments with at least two treatments has dominated scientific research as a way of producing accepted truths about the world around us. However, there is growing interest in design thinking, a research method which encourages practitioners to reformulate goals, question requirements, empathize with users, consider divergent solutions.

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9780199669608

The consistency of inconsistency claims

A theory is inconsistent if we can prove a contradiction using basic logic and the principles of that theory. Consistency is a much weaker condition that truth: if a theory T is true, then T consistent, since a true theory only allows us to prove true claims, and contradictions are not true. There are, however, infinitely many different consistent theories that we can construct.

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Mary Somerville: the new face on Royal Bank of Scotland’s ten-pound note is worthy of international recognition

From 2017, ten-pound notes issued by the Royal Bank of Scotland will feature a new face: that of the great nineteenth-century science communicator Mary Somerville. Her book on mathematical astronomy, Mechanism of the Heavens — published in 1831, when she was fifty years old — was used as an advanced textbook at Cambridge for a hundred years. This is a phenomenal achievement for a woman who taught herself science and mathematics.

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DSCS_Cover_blog

Earth’s climate: a complex system with mysteries abound

We are living with a climate system undergoing significant changes. Scientists have established a critical mass of facts and have quantified them to a degree sufficient to support international action to mitigate against drastic change and adapt to committed climate shifts. The primary example being the relation between increased atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations and the extent of warming in the future.

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quite right

What is information, and should it be free?

When we pay our bills using a plastic card, we are simply authorizing alterations to the information stored in some computers. This is one aspect of the symbiotic relationship that now exists between money and information. The modern financial world is byzantine in its complexity, and mathematics is involved in many ways, not all of them transparently clear. Fortunately there are some bright spots, such as the fact that it is now possible to measure information.

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COMJNLCover

Conversations in computing: Q&A with Editor-in-Chief, Professor Steve Furber

Oxford University Press is excited to be welcoming Professor Steve Furber as the new Editor-in-Chief of The Computer Journal. In an interview between Justin Richards of BCS, The Chartered Institute of IT and Steve, we get to know more about the SpiNNaker project, ethical issues around Artificial Intelligence (AI), and the future of the IT industry.

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teamat journal

Addressing anxiety in the teaching room: techniques to enhance mathematics and statistics education

In June 2015, I co-chaired the organising committee of the first international mathematics education conference of the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications (IMA) titled ‘Barriers and Enablers to Learning Maths’ with the University of Glasgow, who also hosted it. The two and a half day conference explored approaches to teaching and learning mathematics and was structured around ten parallel sessions that delegates could choose from, including ‘Addressing mathematics & statistics anxiety’ and ‘Enhancing engagement with mathematics & statistics.’

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Is an engineering mind-set linked to violent terrorism?

In a British Council report Martin Rose argues that the way STEM subjects are taught reinforces the development of a mind-set receptive to violent extremism. Well taught social sciences, on the other hand, are a potentially powerful intellectual defence against it. Whilst his primary focus was MENA (Middle East and North Africa) he draws implications for education in the West.

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How do people read mathematics?

At first glance this might seem like a non-question. How do people read anything? All suitably educated people read at least somewhat fluently in their first language – why would reading mathematics be different?

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Very Short Introductions Online

Very Short Resolutions: filling the gaps in our knowledge in 2016

Why make New Year’s Resolutions you don’t want to keep? This year the Very Short Introductions team have decided to fill the gaps in their knowledge by picking a VSI to read in 2016. Which VSIs will you be reading in 2016? Let us know in the comment section below or via the Very Short Introductions Facebook page.

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BLMS

Can one hear the corners of a drum?

Why is the head of a drum usually shaped like a circle? How would it sound if it were shaped like a square instead? Or a triangle? If you closed your eyes and listened, could you tell the difference? The mathematics used to prove that “one can hear the corners of a drum” are founded on the study of two everyday phenomena: vibrations and heat conduction.

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Surfing Uncertainty

Predictive brains, sentient robots, and the embodied self

Is the human brain just a rag-bag of different tricks and stratagems, slowly accumulated over evolutionary time? For many years, I thought the answer to this question was most probably ‘yes’. The most tantalizing (but least developed) aspect of the emerging framework concerns the origins of conscious experience itself.

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Why know any algebra?

A recent meme circulating on the internet mocked a US government programme (ObamaCare) saying that its introduction cost $360 million when there were only 317 million people in the entire country. It then posed the rhetorical question: “Why not just give everyone a million dollars instead?”

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A Brief History of Numbers

From number theory to e-commerce

The American Mathematical Society held on October 1903 its regular meeting in New York City. The program announced a talk by Frank Nelson Cole (1861-1921), with the unpretending title of ‘On the factorization of large numbers’. In due course, Cole approached the board and started to multiply the number 2 by itself, step after step and without saying a word, sixty seven times.

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