Ian Stewart

Ian Stewart Professor of Mathematics at the University of Warwick, is the author of Does God play dice? and of a forthcoming sequel, Fearful Symmetry: Is God a geometer?

Oops

Ian Stewart, 4 November 1993

On 29 June 1989, a security manager for the US telephone company Indiana Bell received an anonymous telephone call. In a menacing tone a young man’s voice informed him that he had planted bombs in several switching systems known as 5ESSs. ‘They’re set to blow on a national holiday. They could be anywhere in the country – it’s a sort of competition, a security test.’ On 15 January 1990 – Martin Luther King Day – AT&T’s long-distance telephone switching system went out of action for nine hours. About seventy million calls went uncompleted.’

Who’s that out there?

Ian Stewart, 14 May 1992

‘Science does not customarily pose big questions. It poses small questions.’ It may seem odd to find such a statement in a book whose main questions have to do with Mind and the Cosmos, the twin mysteries of human existence, and whose answers are based upon current scientific understanding. The statement, however, embodies an important truth, upon which the entire book rests. Science does not answer the big questions directly: it provides a frame in which the human mind can tackle them. ‘The world is a fantasy,’ said the astrophysicist Dennis Sciama, ‘so let’s find out about it.’

Forget the Klingons: Is there anybody out there?

James Hamilton-Paterson, 6 March 2003

In the middle of the 19th century the prevailing scientific view of the abyssal ocean held that it was a vast body of water with a uniform temperature of 4 °C. With no variation of...

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Sea-shells and Tigers

Philip Kitcher, 18 March 1999

‘Each week I plot your equations dot for dot, xs against ys in all manner of algebraical relation, and every week they draw themselves as commonplace geometry, as if the world of forms were...

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