Mathematical Digest

Short Summaries of Articles about Mathematics
in the Popular Press

"A Numbers Game," by George Szpiro. Jerusalem Report, 3 May 2004.

This article explores a question that ought to have a simple answer: How longis the security fence that Israel is building on the West Bank? An Israeliofficial said it would be 54 kilometers long, whereas a geographer at theCenter for Palestinian Studies in Jerusalem claimed it would be 72 kilometerslong. "For once, both sides could be right---or wrong," the article says."The reason lies in the mathematical theory of fractals, which describesgeometric patterns that are repeated at ever smaller scales." Thus estimatesof the length of the fence depend on the scale of the map being used. Thearticle goes on to provide some interesting background on fractal theory.

--- Allyn Jackson