Over the past 60 years since bird feeders first became commercially available, humans have been changing bird populations across the UK. The overall effect has generally been positive, with an increase in the prevalence of Wood Pigeons, and a shift in the migration pattern of Eurasian Blackcaps, but as with most changes, there is a word of warning… Live interview with BBC Radio Oxford.

# How long is a lightning bolt?

A new record flash stretching all the way from Texas to Kansas was discovered recently in data from the GOES-16 spacecraft, though the record may soon be broken… Live interview with BBC Radio Oxford.

# Tom Rocks Maths S02 E11

A special edition of Tom Rocks Maths on Oxide Radio with music inspired by Tom’s recent visit to Slam Dunk Festival. We’ve also got Pokemon and drinking games, a mind-bending Einstein Puzzle, and news of Tom’s antics running around the streets of Oxford in his underwear… This is maths, but not as you know it.

# Tom Rocks Maths S02 E10

Episode 10 of Tom Rocks Maths on Oxide Radio sees the conclusion of the million-dollar Millennium Problem series with the Hodge Conjecture, a mischievously difficult number puzzle, and the answer to the question on everyone’s lips: how many people have died watching the video of Justin Bieber’s Despacito? Plus, the usual great music from the Prodigy, the Hives and Weezer.

Image credit: Lou Stejskal

# Tom Rocks Maths: S02 E07

More great music and great maths from Tom Rocks Maths on Oxide Radio – Oxford University’s student radio station. Featuring special guest Yuxiao who explains the Monty Hall problem, tackles the infamous numbers quiz, and sets us not one, but THREE problems in a bumper edition of the weekly puzzle. Plus, music from ACDC, Gym Class Heroes and The Offspring. This is maths, but not as you know it…

Thanks to Alice Taylor for production assistance.

# Tom Rocks Maths S02 E04

The final episode of Tom Rocks Maths on Oxide Radio for 2018 goes out with a bang. We’ve got another million-dollar maths problem, a healthy dose of nakedness, and we try chopping up traffic cones with a saw. Plus, music from Jay-Z/Linkin Park, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and the Foo Fighters. This is maths, but not as you know it…

# How high can bees count?

Bees are not only able to build fantastic hexagonal honeycombs they’re apparently also able to count! But do they deserve their reputation as nature’s mathematicians? Georgia Mills spoke to Srini Srinivasan from the University of Queensland to find out how they discovered counting bees…

- Bees were trained to fly down a tunnel with a reward of sugar water at the end, and a series of identical landmarks labelled 1, 2, 3, 4, etc. along the route.
- One of the landmarks contained the reward and the bees had to test each one to discover its location. This was repeated several times until the bees learned the location of the reward.
- The spacing of the landmarks was then changed, but the reward remained at the same landmark, and the bees had to find it once again.
- They were able to ‘count’ the number of landmarks and would go straight to the correct location bypassing the others that did not contain a reward.
- The highest number of sequential landmarks the bees were able to ‘count’ was 4.
- Four is a universal number as when briefly presented with an image containing a number of objects, the largest amount most animals can recognise accurately is 4-5. This process is called subitising.
- Counting to 4 is useful for bees when for example deciding whether or not to land on a flower to collect pollen. If there are 3-4 bees already there then it is probably not worth their effort.
- Counting has also been looked at in fish birds and chimpanzees, and in each case the number four keeps cropping up, suggesting universality.
- The tunnel experiment was actually designed to investigate how bees navigate and the corresponding ‘waggle dance’ that they use to communicate information.

You can listen to the full interview with the Naked Scientists here.

# Maths at: The Martian

I recently joined the Maths at team to dissect the maths featured in the movie ‘The Martian’. We had a lot of fun and even learned a few things including:

- Everyone’s links to Countdown;
- Ancient Greek Mathematicians;
- How to tell the difference between Jeff Daniels and Jeff Bridges.

So, put your feet up, get comfortable, get naked (if you so wish) and listen to the full episode here.

You can try the Martian’s maths problems for yourself here and find out more about NASA’s mission to Mars with the Opportunity Rover by watching the video below.

# Tom Rocks Maths Episode 08

The final episode in season 1 of Tom Rocks Maths on Oxide Radio – Oxford University’s student radio station – with very special guests Jon and Nick discussing everything from the number of stickers needed to cover the Earth, to different types of infinity, via a new name for the world’s smallest number. Plus, a mammoth quiz to end the season in style and music from Nirvana and Soundgarden. This is maths, but not as you know it…