What are random walks?

Not the Monty Python kind but the maths kind

Mocha Mathematics

A shorter version of this post was published on The Conversation on 19th December 2013.

“So much of life, it seems to me, is determined by pure randomness” – Sidney Poitier

The warmth of sunlight on your face, the view from your backyard – such delights are delivered to you by countless pieces of sunlight that you constantly absorb. Each such photon of sunlight has come to the end of an incredible journey. Its journey began with a violent birth in the nuclear fires of the sun’s core, which was followed by a long migration to the solar surface and a final leap across the 150 million kilometre void of space to reach the Earth (and you).

Still more remarkable is the time required for such a journey. Travelling at the fastest speed known to physics, the photon crossed from the sun to the Earth in a mere 9 minutes…

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