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Roots of Unity

Roots of Unity


Mathematics: learning it, doing it, celebrating it.
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    Evelyn Lamb Evelyn Lamb is a postdoc at the University of Utah. She writes about mathematics and other cool stuff. Follow on Twitter @evelynjlamb.
  • Things to Make and Do in the Fourth Dimension (Book Review)

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    Sometimes you want to learn a “new” multiplication algorithm from a general interest math book, sometimes you want to learn why voting systems are doomed to imperfection, and sometimes you just want to play with numbers, patterns, and pictures. Things to Make and Do in the Fourth Dimension by Matt Parker is the third kind of [...]

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    Gauss and Germain on Pleasure and Passion

    Portrait_Sophie_Germain

    Sophie German, who was not allowed to attend university, was the first woman to make significant original contributions to mathematical research. Today, her story is both inspiring and heartbreaking. What might this brilliant, creative mind have done if barriers had not been thrown in her way at every step? How many others like her do [...]

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    The Media and the Genius Myth

    Not many of us can be Serena Williams. Does that keep us from playing tennis? Image: Yann Caradec, via Flickr.

    I’ve been thinking a lot about the genius myth, the notion that in order to be a successful in certain disciplines, you need to have a special innate talent that can’t be learned. Last month, a study in Science found that fields whose practitioners buy into the genius myth, say, mathematics, have lower proportions of [...]

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    Understand the Measles Outbreak with this One Weird Number

    A man sneezes, possibly transmitting measles or other airborne diseases. Image: James Gathany, CDC.

    15. That’s all you need to know about the measles. OK, that’s not true at all. There’s no one weird trick that will give you a flat belly (besides lying face-down on something flat), and there’s no one weird number that explains measles epidemiology. But the basic reproduction number, or R0, of a disease does [...]

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    Learn to Count like an Egyptian

    Count Like an Egyptian by David Reimer. Image: Princeton University Press.

    Last semester, I began my math history class with some Babylonian arithmetic. The mathematics we were doing was easy—multiplying and adding numbers, solving quadratic equations by completing the square—but the base 60 system and the lack of a true zero made those basic operations challenging for my students. I was glad that the different system [...]

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    Mathematics, Live: A Conversation with Amal Fahad and Rasha Osman, Part II

    Amal Fahad

    I had the pleasure of attending the 2nd annual Heidelberg Laureate Forum in September. Modeled after the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings, it brings together recipients of prestigious awards in mathematics and computer science and young researchers in those areas. A focus of the meeting was the role of mathematics and computer science in the developing world, [...]

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    Mathematics, Live: A Conversation with Amal Fahad and Rasha Osman, Part I

    Rasha Osman

    I had the pleasure of attending the 2nd annual Heidelberg Laureate Forum in September. Modeled after the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings, it brings together recipients of prestigious awards in mathematics and computer science and young researchers in those areas. A focus of the meeting was the role of mathematics and computer science in the developing [...]

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    12 Things I Had Way Too Much Fun Writing This Year

    A knitted (5,15) torus link. Image: sarah-marie belcastro.

    It’s the season for family, hot chocolate, and year-in-review lists. Guess which one this is! Roots of Unity has been around for two years now, and I’m so glad I have a place to share some of the weird and wonderful math I think about. In chronological order, here are 12 of my favorite posts [...]

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    What We Talk about When We Talk about Holes

    A visualization of some points on the sphere and their fibers in the Hopf fibration. Image: Niles Johnson, via Wikimedia Commons.

    For Halloween, I wrote about a very scary topic: higher homotopy groups. Homotopy is an idea in topology, the field of math concerned with properties of shapes that stay the same no matter how you squish or stretch them, as long as you don’t tear them or glue things together. Both homotopy groups and the [...]

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    Online Game Crowd-Sources Theorems

    So close! Can we just round this one up to success? Screenshot from Nice Neighbors by Chris Staecker.

    Now is your chance to prove some theorems without knowing what they mean! Chris Staecker, a mathematician at Fairfield University, created the game Nice Neighbors to get crowd-sourced solutions to problems from a field called digital topology. Whether that means anything to you or not, you might be able to help Staecker and his colleagues prove some [...]

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