math geek with no social life
via Cliff Pickover ‏@pickover 
Indian mathematician Ramanujan said his exotic-looking formulas came to him in dreams. Check out this one!


Indian mathematician Ramanujan said his exotic-looking formulas came to him in dreams. Check out this one!


The answers to this question are pretty funny, and also fairly informative!

KnIT didn’t read the papers like a scientist – that would have taken a lifetime. Instead, it scanned for information on a protein called p53, and a class of enzymes that can interact with it, called kinases. Also known as “the guardian of the genome”, p53 suppresses tumours in humans. KnIT trawled the literature searching for links that imply undiscovered p53 kinases, which could provide routes to new cancer drugs.

Having analysed papers up until 2003, KnIT identified seven of the nine kinases discovered over the subsequent 10 years. More importantly, it also found what appeared to be two p53 kinases unknown to science. Initial lab tests confirmed the findings, although the team wants to repeat the experiment to be sure.

We have grown up on this planet, trapped, in a certain sense, on it, not knowing of the existence of anything else beyond our immediate surroundings, having to figure the world out for ourselves. What a courageous and difficult enterprise, building, generation after generation, on what has been learned in the past; questioning the conventional wisdom; being willing, sometimes at great personal risk, to challenge the prevailing wisdom and gradually, slowly emerging from this torment, a well-based, in many senses predictive, quantitative understanding of the nature of the world around us. Not, by any means, understanding every aspect of that world but gradually, through successive approximations, understanding more and more. We face a difficult and uncertain future, and it seems to me it requires all of those talents that have been honed by our evolution and our history, if we are to survive.
Carl Sagan, The Varieties of Scientific Experience  (via scinerds)

Sunday Jam

The Icosahedron Of Tipoo Sultan


File:Tipu death.jpg

Mysteriously, the five Platonic solids are almost entirely absent from the history of mathematics and science on the Indian subcontinent, but this gold icosahedron found in Tipoo Sultan’s treasury is an exception. 

This is a small, very well crafted icosahedron with a number in East Arabic numerals on each face. It apparently was in the treasury of Tipu Sultan at the time he was overthrown by the British in 1799 at Seringapatam in southern India, but this object may be much older than from the time of Tipu or his father. The origin of this, where it was created and for what purpose appear to have been lost with time.


Paul Bien speculates about the numerals on this artifact, which are the following, arranged as a net unfolded from the solid by cutting some edges: 

numbered icosahedral folding net

The total sum of the numbers is 5190. The sum of the numbers on the lid is 3206, leaving the sum of the numbers on the rest of the icosahedron at 1984. From these numbers the structure of  the icosahedron yields very close values for the golden ratio, phi= 1.618.

The basic geometric definition of the golden ratio is that the whole is to the larger part as the larger part is to the smaller part. Applying this to  the icosahedron, take the whole = 5190, the larger part = 3206, and the
smaller part = 1984:

whole/larger part = 5190/3206 = 1.6188 = 1.0005 * phi

larger part/smaller part = 3206/1984 = 1.6160 = 0.9987 * phi.

There are many more intriguing results including ones for pi, and the square roots of 2, 3, and 5. These results arise in some very simple ways from the icosahedron that appear to leave little room for these results occurring by chance. Also, it appears that the twenty individual
numbers themselves come about from some very clever number play between pi and phi. There’s little doubt that whomever created this had a very deep and insightful mathematical mind.

However, the actual structure and purpose of the object remains a mystery. 

Update: As soon as I tweeted this post, came a very interesting response from Sayeed Anjum suggesting that this could be related to Abjad numerals. I do not discount that possibility as unlikely: 


Further Reading

  1. Math Baubles, by Brian Hayes
  2. A Numbered Icosahedron From India, by Paul Bien
  3. The sale at Sotheby’s describes Lot 65
  4. The Siege of Seringapatanam (1799): Wikipedia, source of the topmost image. 
via Cliff Pickover ‏@pickover 
Quantum Mechanic.
We eat energy and poop entropy.
Stephen C Stearns (via isomorphismes)

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