Having Fun with Mathematics

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We study mathematics for many reasons. Mathematics is important and beautiful, and studying it is often a serious task. But in this section, you'll find some whimsical and entertaining applications of some seriously important mathematics.

How do you study Zombies?

Disease models for zombie outbreaks: Mathematics meets the "real world" in the guise of models. Follow this link to encounter several papers which combine disease models and tools from advanced calculus to find the most effective response to a zombie outbreak. The Ottawa Citizen Op-Ed is easy reading, the Medical Journal paper gives a good sense of how the model works, and the paper "When zombies attack!" goes into all the gory details.

A zombie-outbreak-simulator: There is no single perfect model of a zombie outbreak. Instead of using formulas to model outbreaks, this model combines a computer simulation with a random number generator to simulate "chance events". This gives a much more visual picture of how a zombie outbreak may play out.
Try playing with this model! Adjust settings like "weapons" or "terrain type", and watch how the different scenarios play out. For fun, try comparing a model with "mazes" versus a model with "mazes and plazas" (both with no-weapons). Why is one population curve a line, and the other a logistic curve?
(You must have Java 1.6 or better installed to run the model).

Cooking up some pi

The number \(\pi\) is very important in mathematics. It shows up in trigonometry, calculus, and beyond. If you want to find the first few digits of \(\pi\), you can use a calculator, look it up online, or check your textbook. But where do all those decimal places come from? The power series expansion for \(\tan^{-1}(x)\) provides one method for computing digits of \(\pi\) to any decimal precision you want. Try using this Excel worksheet to compute some digits of \(\pi\) yourself! Do you notice anything interesting?
(You will need to enable macros for full functionality. You can read a copy of the macro code here.)

Seeing the Beauty of Math in Nature:

Mathematics is filled with abstract concepts and precise formalisms. But many of these concepts come from, and point us back to, the world around us. This page gathers together some mathematically themed pictures from nature.

The Game of Mathematics:

Math Fun Facts! At a certain point, mathematics itself becomes a game. Follow this link to find today's five most popular fun facts: short puzzles and articles that each contain a beautiful idea. Here is your window into the world of fun facts and surprising connections that is higher mathemtaics!