Mathematical Digest


Short Summaries of Articles about Mathematics
in the Popular Press

"Stressrelief caused Giant's Causeway," by Philip Ball. Nature Science Update, 28 January2002.

According to legend, the Giant's Causeway, a field of almost perfectlyhexagonal stone columns on the shores of Northern Ireland, was built by thegiant Finn McCool to enable him to walk to Scotland without wetting his feet.Eduardo Jagla of the Centro Atamico Bariloche in Argentina and Alberto Rojo ofthe University of Michigan have put forth another idea. Lava shrinks as itcools, causing rock in the solidifying layer to crack; polygonal patternsreduce energy more efficiently than random splitting. Therefore, theypostulate, the causeway of today was once a many-layered volcanic field whosecracking pattern became more uniform with each lower level. Erosion has wornthe top layers away, exposing the hexagonal columns of today.

---Emiene Tardzer