Mathematical Digest

Short Summaries of Articles about Mathematics
in the Popular Press

"Strings and things," by Jon Turney. Nature, 19 April 2001, page 873.

"Science wants to be precise, unambiguous, logical and universal," Turneywrites. "Natural language is none of these things: hence scientists' addictionto mathematics." He goes on to discuss the difficulty facing writers who wantto explain scientific ideas to lay people without resorting to mathematics.His main example is string theory. "[S]uperstrings offer a fascinatingdemonstration of how hard it is to convey what the mathematics might be tellingus before the conventional explanation has time to bed down," he notes. Heuses quotations from such popular works as The Elegant Universe asexamples of attempts to describe string theory without mathematics.

--- Allyn Jackson