Mathematical Digest

Short Summaries of Articles about Mathematics
in the Popular Press

"Fractions to Make an Egyptian Scribe Blanch," by Dana Mackenzie.Science, 10 October 1997, page 224.

To represent a number as an "Egyptian fraction" is to write it as the sum offractions where all the numerators are 1 and all the denominators aredifferent. For example, 2/17 = 1/12 + 1/51 + 1/68 is an Egyptian fractionrepresentation of 2/17. Number theorists have been examining the question ofwhen whole numbers can be written as Egyptian fractions. This articledescribes some recent results on this question.

--- Allyn Jackson