A Differential Equation

Thursday 21 September 2006 at 11:46 am | In Articles | 1 Comment

It’s nice to see mathematics in a newspaper, but in this case it’s just there to baffle. In the printed version of today’s Guardian financial viewpoint Nils Prately wrote (the online version doesn’t include the equation):

    At last, proof that PartyGaming, king of online poker, will soon find its flush busted. Here is the first line of the mathematical equation, fresh from UBS, the investment bank:
      \displaystyle \frac{\delta\! f}{\delta t}=\left(\phi (t) - 2s \right) - \frac{1}{10}\left(\phi (t) - 2s \right)

    Wha’d’y’a mean you don’t get it? It’s a variation of a Lotka-Volterra differential equation for the modelling of eco-systems. Surely you’re familiar …

Lotka-Volterra consists of a pair of differential equations so how can you print just the first line :-? it’s like printing half a word. Then again, the printed equation isn’t a differential equation – I thought perhaps \displaystyle \frac{\delta\! f}{\delta t} was a misreading of \displaystyle \frac{\partial\! f}{\partial t} but t seems to be the only independent variable so it’s probably \displaystyle \frac{df}{dt}. I presume there’s also another error since the equation, as printed, obviously simplifies to \displaystyle \frac{\delta\! f}{\delta t} = \frac{9}{10}\left(\phi (t) - 2s \right)

The good news though is that they printed the equation using proper fonts and symbols so it did really look like mathematics :)

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  1. I don’t think this is the first time they’ve had a maths story and messed up the equations. In fact, I’m pretty sure one (or both?) of us have blogged about them before!

    They claim to be the only newspaper with a dedicated science team and with some science-y staff that other journalists can consult, which is laudable, but they obviously have no mathematicians on the staff.

    Comment by Craig — Friday 22 September 2006 8:20 am #

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