## The Neuroscience of Mathematical Beauty

May 7th, 2014 | 5

Mathematics, rightly viewed, possesses not only truth, but supreme beauty” — Bertrand Russell The latest neuroscience of aesthetics suggests that the experience of visual, musical, and moral beauty all recruit the same part of the “emotional brain”: field A1 of the medial orbitofrontal cortex (mOFC). But what about mathematics? Plato believed that mathematical beauty was [...]

**Keep reading »**

## Talent on the Sidelines: The Widening Gap in Excellence

October 22nd, 2013 | 6

An alarming report on the current state of excellence in the United States has been released today. The conclusion of the report “Talent on the Sidelines: Excellence Gaps and the Persistence of America’s Permanent Talent Underclass” is that the United States is relying on less than half of its talent, with large percentages of our brightest students [...]

**Keep reading »**

## The Need for Belonging in Math and Science

October 21st, 2013 | 6

From her earliest memories, Catherine Good was good at math. By second grade she was performing at the fourth grade level, sometimes even helping the teacher grade other students’ work. She was praised constantly for her “gift”, often overhearing her mother tell anyone who would listen that she was a “sponge” for anything mathematical. By [...]

**Keep reading »**

## How Do You Count Parallel Universes? You Can’t Just Go 1, 2, 3, …

August 6th, 2012 | 6

Cosmologists have been thinking for years that our universe might be just one bubble amid countless bubbles floating in a formless void. And when they say “countless,” they really mean it. Those universes are damned hard to count. Angels on a pin are nothing to this. There’s no unambiguous way to count items in an [...]

**Keep reading »**

## Contemplating the end of the world, math, mystery and other things

September 6th, 2010 | 21

I suffer from eschatological obsession. That is, I spend lots of time brooding about ends. So the cover of the September Scientific American—which reads simply "the end."—made me all shivery, like when I hear the spooky sitar opening of The Doors’ apocalyptic rock poem "The End." (I’m never more Freudian than when I hear Morrison’s [...]

**Keep reading »**

## Getting kids interested in math careers may require a hero.

March 24th, 2012 | 2

Back when I was a high school math geek, our math team would go to meets that occasionally had tables set up to encourage us to pursue various careers that would make use of our mad math skillz. The one such profession where the level of encouragement far outstripped our teenaged interest was the actuarial [...]

**Keep reading »**

## To What Extent Do We See with Mathematics?

November 27th, 2013 | 5

When I first became fascinated with mathematics’ tightly knit abstract structures, its prominence in physics and engineering reassured me. Mathematics’ indisputable value in science made it clear that my preoccupation with its intangible expressions was not pathological. The captivating creative activity of doing mathematics has real consequences. During my graduate school years, I began to [...]

**Keep reading »**

## In Defense Of Metaphors In Science Writing

July 9th, 2013 | 18

“Science is all metaphor” Timothy Leary We live in an elegant universe. The cosmos is like a string symphony. Genes are selfish. There is an endless battle between thermodynamics and gravity. Do you love these statements, or hate them? The reading world gets pretty divided over whether or not it’s okay to apply metaphors and [...]

**Keep reading »**

## Can Synesthesia in Autism Lead to Savantism?

Daniel Tammet has memorized Pi to the 22,514th digit. He speaks ten different languages, including one of his own invention, and he can multiply enormous sums in his head within a matter of seconds. However, he is unable to hold down a standard 9-to-5 job, in part due to his obsessive adherence to ritual, down [...]

**Keep reading »**

## World Cup Prediction Mathematics Explained

June 11th, 2014 | 8

The World Cup is back, and everyone’s got a pick for the winner. Gamblers have been predicting the outcome of sporting contests since the first foot race across the savannah, but in recent years a unique type of statistical analysis has taken over the prediction business. Everyone from Goldman Sachs to Bloomberg to Nate Silver’s [...]

**Keep reading »**

## Mathematical Patterns in Sea Ice Reveal Melt Dynamics

March 13th, 2014 | 4

Some people call Ken Golden the “Indiana Jones” of mathematics due to his frequent excursions to remote, harsh parts of the world. Golden, a professor of mathematics at the University of Utah, studies the dynamics of sea ice, and he regularly goes out into the field to test his hypotheses. He has visited the Arctic [...]

**Keep reading »**

## A Presidential Pythagorean Proof

James Abram Garfield was born on this day, November 19, in 1831. Had an unstable, delusional stalker’s bullets and nineteenth-century medical “care” not cut short his life just six months into his presidency, he would be 181 today (more on that later). Garfield was an intelligent man who studied some math in college, but contemporary [...]

**Keep reading »**

## Mathematicians at Play: 3-D Printing Enters the 4th Dimension

October 31st, 2012 | 2

I was at a math conference last week, and one of the other attendees brought a puzzle. I am a pretty slow puzzle-solver, so it will be a while before I figure out how to assemble those five pieces to get this. Three views of the assembled puzzle. Saul Schleimer, a mathematician at the University [...]

**Keep reading »**

## “Wikithon” Honors Ada Lovelace and Other Women in Science

A Wikipedia edit-a-thon seems like a fitting tribute to the woman many consider to be the first computer programmer. October 16 is Ada Lovelace Day, an annual observation designed to raise awareness of the contributions of women in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) disciplines. Groups in the U.S., U.K., Sweden and India are marking [...]

**Keep reading »**

## Fractal Kitties Illustrate the Endless Possibilities for Julia Sets

September 26th, 2012 | 11

For decades, scientists have been trying to solve a tough question: if the Internet runs out of cat pictures, can we generate more using advanced mathematics?* A paper posted on the arxiv earlier this month by mathematicians Kathryn Lindsey and the late William Thurston calms fears about “peak cat.” In the paper, they describe a [...]

**Keep reading »**

## Why 167 Is a Happy Number—Besides Being *Scientific American*‘s Age

August 27th, 2012 | 3

On Tuesday, Scientific American turns 167 years old. It doesn’t exactly look like the kind of anniversary we usually celebrate, with our decimal normative number system that overvalues ending zeroes and fives, but 167 is a pretty neat number. First of all, we can insert two symbols into it to get a correct mathematical statement: [...]

**Keep reading »**

## The Mathematical Legacy of William Thurston (1946-2012)

William Thurston, whose geometrization conjecture changed the fields of geometry and topology and whose approach to mathematics and mathematics education has reverberated throughout the mathematical world, died on August 21 following a battle with cancer. He has appeared in the pages of Scientific American in the article The Mathematics of Three-Dimensional Manifolds, which he co-wrote [...]

**Keep reading »**

## Metrocard Mathematics: Are Unlimited Subway Passes a Good Deal?

July 31st, 2012 | 6

Unlimited, or Pay-Per-Ride? That’s the question posed by the New York Times City Room blog this morning, as New Yorkers confront the great algebraic unknown of August: are unlimited subway passes still a good value even if you’re going out of town on vacation? Perhaps the author, reporter Clyde Haberman, has been reading too much [...]

**Keep reading »**

## Abandoning Algebra Is Not the Answer

July 30th, 2012 | 62

In an opinion piece for the New York Times on Sunday, political science professor Andrew Hacker asks, “Is Algebra Necessary?” and answers, “No.” It’s not just algebra: geometry and calculus are on the chopping block, too. It’s not that he doesn’t think math is important; he wants the traditional sequence to be replaced by a [...]

**Keep reading »**

## Math Warriors: Season 3

Have you ever watched “Mean Girls”? It’s one of the movies before Lindsey Lohan really began to let her career slip. She plays Cady, a smart girl, homeschooled by her parents as they lived in Africa until her high school years, where, desperate to fit in AND to “get the guy”, she dumbs down her [...]

**Keep reading »**

## The Shocking Failure of British Rail Travel to Respect the Triangle Inequality

July 23rd, 2014 | 1

I spent about a month in the UK earlier this summer, and that meant I took a lot of train trips. I love riding trains: the feeling of endless possibility I get when I look at the departure boards, the countryside rolling by, the fantastic people-watching, the two-hour delay between Edinburgh and Manchester because a [...]

**Keep reading »**

## Some Infinities Are Bigger than Other Infinities, and Some Are Just the Same Size

July 10th, 2014 | 16

Warning: contains minor spoilers for The Fault in Our Stars. I recently read The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, now a major motion picture that has led to theft in Amsterdam and a shortage of dry eyes in movie theaters around the world. One of the ideas that resonates with Hazel, the 16-year-old narrator [...]

**Keep reading »**

## British Objects of Constant Width

July 4th, 2014 | 3

As I wrap up a trip to the UK, I reflect on the many objects of constant width I encountered here. I’ll let Numberphile tell you a little more about objects of constant width. Almost immediately after getting off the plane at Heathrow, I got some breakfast and some change in the form of metal [...]

**Keep reading »**

## The Most Mathematically Perfect Day of the Year

June 28th, 2014 | 3

Whether you write it 6/28 or 28/6, today is a perfect day. A perfect number is a number that is the sum of its factors besides itself, and 6 (1+2+3) and 28 (1+2+4+7+14) are the first two perfect numbers. Hence, June 28 is a perfect day. Perfect numbers are few and far between, so don’t [...]

**Keep reading »**

## 2, 4, 6, 8, What Does Not Associate?

June 23rd, 2014 | 5

Last month, I wrote about group theory via monkeys, and it got me thinking about the associative property. A mathematical group consists of a collection of stuff: integers, or rational numbers, or even something more abstract; and an operation that combines any two elements of your stuff into another element of stuff. One of the [...]

**Keep reading »**

## How to Make “e-1″ Salad Dressing

June 16th, 2014 | 1

What does math taste like? Andrea Hawksley recently posted a recipe for Fibonacci lemonade, a drink that is inspired by the famous Fibonacci sequence: 1,1,2,3,5,8, and so on. It is a thing of beauty to behold, and as you drink it, you actually taste successive approximations of the golden ratio due to the relationship between [...]

**Keep reading »**

## How Not to Be Wrong (Book Review)

How Not to Be Wrong by Jordan Ellenberg. Image courtesy of Penguin Press. How Not to Be Wrong, the first popular math book by University of Wisconsin-Madison math professor Jordan Ellenberg, just hit the shelves. In addition to a Ph.D. in math, Ellenberg has an MFA in creative writing and has been writing about math [...]

**Keep reading »**

## A Higher Murder Rate than New York and Los Angeles Combined

May 27th, 2014 | 13

Today on the radio, I heard an announcer say, “Chicago has a higher murder rate than New York and Los Angeles combined.” The compassionate human being in me cringed, and the statistical pedant in me also cringed. What does that mean? When I heard, “New York and Los Angeles combined,” I intuitively thought of combining [...]

**Keep reading »**

## MoMA to MoMath: a Mathematician’s Picks for Art in New York City

I was in New York City earlier this month, and in addition to finally having an excuse to ride the Staten Island Ferry (I gave a talk there), I managed to make it to a few of the excellent museums in the city. I don’t go to art museums to try to find connections with [...]

**Keep reading »**

## Nothing Is More Fun than a Hypercube of Monkeys

May 19th, 2014 | 1

Monkeys! Mathematical groups! 4-dimensional geometry! Together at last! This sculpture, called More Fun than a Hypercube of Monkeys, answers an open question: has the quaternion group ever appeared as the symmetry group of an object? Thanks to mathematician Henry Segerman and mathemusician Vi Hart, the answer is now yes. Their very readable paper about the sculpture [...]

**Keep reading »**

## The Making of a Mathematical Mind: 1 Step at a Time

August 15th, 2013 | 5

One time when I was in the third grade, I got sick and missed a week of school. My dad wanted me to keep up with my schoolwork, so he brought my assignments and books home. I did the required work in the math workbook quickly, or so the story goes, and went on to [...]

**Keep reading »**

## 20th-Century Math Hidden in 15th-Century Art

February 25th, 2014 | 3

Art and science are often thought of as disparate entities, drawing on different strengths and different ways of thinking. This is surely true, but the disciplines also share patterns of thought and essential characteristics. Take, for example, their inherently collaborative processes. No artist creates in a vacuum just as no scientists could perform the work [...]

**Keep reading »**