Collapsing Bridges and Annie Jump Cannon

1. Big Bang in America
2. Tacoma Narrows Bridge
3. Harvard Computers
4. Puzzle Competition
5. Competition Winner

1. Big Bang in America

I am now back in the UK after six weeks of touring across North America.
Many thanks to everyone who came along to the various talks and who gave me
such an enthusiastic and warm welcome wherever I lectured. The tour ended
with some great news – “Big Bang” appeared this week on the New York Times
bestsellers list! The list contains the top 15 books, and “Big Bang” just
sneaked in at number 15.

Now that I am back in Britain, I will be giving several lectures around the
country over the next two months. Planned lectures are listed at:

2. Tacoma Narrows Bridge

My US tour took me to Seattle, just thirty miles away from Tacoma, which
reminded me of my favorite piece of physics/engineering footage. If you want
to see the catastrophic resonant failure of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, then
you can watch it at:
There are two clips at the bottom of the webpage. The first one has great
music and a sensational voiceover, but the second one contains the more
dramatic footage.

3. Harvard Computers

I was in America when the president of Harvard University suggested that
women might have less “innate ability” at science and mathematics than men.
It prompted me to write an article about the Harvard computers for the
Boston Globe. These so-called computers were actually women employed to do
mundane calculations, but they astounded their male bosses by making truly
great discoveries in astronomy. If you want to hear a tribute to one of
these, then you can hear a rather quirky little ditty dedicated to Annie
Jump Cannon at the web site of Lynda Williams’s (the Physics Chanteuse):
To fully appreciate the song, you can read the lyrics and find out more
about Annie Jump Cannon at:

4. Puzzle Competition

26/65, 19/95, 49/98, 16/64 – what do these fractions have in common?

If you would like a clue then here it is written backwards: “UOY NAC OD

Email the answer and your address to and one of the
correct entries will win a copy of Fermat’s Last Theorem.

5. Last Month’s Winner

In the last newsletter, I asked: “What is the largest non-McNugget number?”
The answer is 43, and more information is available at:

Kelly Howery from Missouri. was the first entry out of the hat and winner of
“How Mumbo-jumbo Conquered the World” by Francis Wheen.


Ps. If you need to email me, then please do not reply to this address, as
your email will not reach me. Please go via the website and click the contact button. It takes me ages to
answer emails, as I am struggling to keep up with my correspondence, so
please be patient.

PPs. To unsubscribe, please send a blank email to For further help with subscribing and
unsubscribing, please visit