Short Summaries of Articles about Mathematics
in the Popular Press
"From Solitaire, a Clue to the World of Prime Numbers," by Dana Mackenzie. Science, 27 November 1998, pages 1631-1632.
This article discusses relationships among three seemingly unrelated phenomena from probability, physics, and number theory. It turns out that the simple card game solitaire is quite difficult to model probabilistically. The game shares some traits with a mathematical tool called random matrices that hails from quantum mechanics. Evidence of these same traits have emerged in computer experiments pertaining to the Riemann Hypothesis, the main unsolved problem in modern number theory. One of the reasons the Riemann Hypothesis is so important is that it holds the key to understanding the distribution of the prime numbers. Number theorists are hoping that techniques for understanding random matrices may eventually lead to a proof of the Riemann Hypothesis.
--- Allyn Jackson