Showing posts from May, 2017

Falling into a black hole: Just what do you see?

Everyone loves black holes. Immense gravity, a one-way space-time membrane, the possibility of links to other universes. All lovely stuff.

A little trawl of the internets reveals an awful lot of web pages discussing black holes, and discussions about spaghettification, firewalls, lost information, and many other things. Actually, a lot of the stuff out there on the web is nonsense, hand-waving, partly informed guesswork. And one of the questions that gets asked is "What would you see looking out into the universe?"

Some (incorrectly) say that you would never cross the event horizon, a significant mis-understanding of the coordinates of relativity. Other (incorrectly) conclude from this that you actually see the entire future history of the universe play out in front of your eyes.

What we have to remember, of course, is that relativity is a mathematical theory, and instead of hand waving, we can use mathematics to work out what we will see. And that's what I did.

I won&#…

The Chick Peck Problem

So, my plans for my blog through 2017 have not quite gone to plan, but things have been horrendously busy, and it seems like the rest of the year is likely to continue this way.

But I did get a chance to do some recreational mathematics, spurred on my a story in the news. It's to do with a problem presented at the 2017 Raytheon MATHCOUNTS® National Competition and reported in the New York Times. Here's the question as presented in the press:

Kudos to 13 year old Texan, Luke Robitialle, who got this right.

With a little thought, you should be able to realise that the answer is 25. For any particular chick, there are four potential out comes, each with equal probability. Either the chick is
pecked from the leftpecked from the rightpecked from left and rightnot pecked at allOnly one of these options results in the chick being unpecked, and so the expected number of chicks unpecked in a circle of 100 is one quarter of this number, or 25.
ABC journalist and presenter extraordinaire, Lei…