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Cheese Rolling

2 May 2017
Inside science

The journal Mathematics Today also has an article on the mathematics of rolling a large round haunch of cheese down a hill – the annual pastime of cheese rolling (page 63). See www.ima.org.uk/5625/westward-ho-musings-mathematics-mechanics/ … See also the official website for cheese rolling at Cooper's Hill in Gloucestershire, www.cheese-rolling.co.uk – but see also an article on the Painleve Paradox in the IMA journal 81:3, DOI:https://doi.org/10.1033/imamat/hxw027 – the mathematics of rolling a cheese down a hill. Not any old cheese mind you, either a good Cheddar or a Double Gloucester. Much cider is quaffed in local hostelries both before and after the race (as it is a race to catch the cheese by a group of young people oblivious to the prospect of cracking a bone in their legs. The cheese is large – enough for the lunch box for months. The Painleve Paradox (from French mathematician and aero engineer Paul Painleve, 1863-1933) is a fundamental instability that we may experience in everyday life. We are given an example as we are told the instability lies at the root of the reason why chalk is easy to drag across a blackboard but difficult to push – and at a critical point the chalk will fly off the blackboard. The impact without collision. During the impact, energy is instantaneously transferred, from tangential to normal momentum.

On page 66 we have the mathematics of getting the Vulcan bomber from Ascension Island to Port Stanley and back again – see www.ima.org.uk/5664/mathematics-war-attack-port-stanley-airfield/ … using refueling aircraft to keep the aeroplane company. The logistics of getting the Vulcan bomber from Britain to the Falklands, and into Argentine air space, and back again, has been written about on many occasions. In this instance, we have the mathematics employed. From Ascension to the Falklands and back took 15 hours and 50 minutes and involved 18 air to air refuelings. See for example www.raf.mod.uk/history/OperationBlackBuck.cfm

On page 68 we have an article on why it is so difficult to pull apart two glass plates separated by a thin film of liquid, and on page 71 a piece on John Napier, 1550-1617, discoverer of logarithms, a Scottish mathematician who predicted the end of the world in 1688, and again in 1700. He lived at a time of great upheaval, in politics and religion – a Protestant in the mode of John Knox. See for example www.17centurymaths.com … Another 17th century mathematician was John Wallis – featured in IMA journal December 2016.

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