November 2004
"Getting the Message Across": Review of Information Theory, Inference, and Learning Algorithms by David J.C. MacKay. Reviewed by David Saad. American Scientist, NovemberDecember 2004, pages 578579. The reviewer gives a positive review of this textbook, which is concerned with the application of probability and statistics to communication. Saad writes, "This is primarily an excellent textbook in the areas of information theory, Bayesian inference and learning algorithms. Undergraduate and postgraduate students will find it extremely useful for gaining insight into these topics; however, the book also serves as a valuable reference for researchers in these areas. Both sets of readers should find the book enjoyable and highly useful."  Mike Breen "Amateur puts maths riddle to its stiffest test," by Jenny Hogan. New Scientist, 27 November 2004, page 11. This short article describes two different efforts to verify the Riemann Hypothesis, one of the main outstanding problems in mathematics. It is possible to test the Riemann Hypothesis in specific cases, and although such tests can never definitively prove or disprove the hypothesis, many have been carried out. Two of the latest ones were done by people in France and Germany. The researcher in France had an especially good algorithm, while the researcher in Germany had more computer power available. The two are now joining efforts to do yet more testing.  Allyn Jackson
"Math prizes." Random Samples, Science, 26 November 2004, page 1471. Ben Green, Gérard Laumon and BaoChâu Ngô are the recipients of the 2004 research awards from the Clay Mathematics Institute. Most of this short piece in the "People" section of "Random Samples" is about Green who, along with Terence Tao, proved a conjecture about arithmetic progressions of primes in early 2004.  Mike Breen
"Warum die Frauen nicht davonsprinten," by George Szpiro. Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 21 November 2004. This piece discusses an article in Nature that stirred a good deal of controversy. In that article, researchers used the statistical tool of regression analysis to predict that women would surpass men in the 100meter sprint in just a few years. The author explains why the reason in the article is faulty.  Allyn Jackson
"Father of Fractals," by Jim Giles. Nature, 18 November 2004, pages 2667.
"Grape ripening as a past climate indicator," by Isabelle Chuine, Pascal Yiou, Nicolas Viovy, Bernard Seguin, Valerie Daux and Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie. Nature, 18 November 2004;
"A Watchdog Follows the Money in Iraq," by Erik Eckholm. New York Times, 15 November 2004, page A6. This article is about the career of Bunnatine H. Greenhouse, an AfricanAmerican woman who is the contract director at the Army Corps of Engineers. Her job is to ensure that contracting by the Corps follows government rules and is carried out with integrity and without favoritism. Recently she has taken heat for asking hard questions about contracts given to companies, such as Halliburton, that are doing reconstruction work in Iraq. Greenhouse studied mathematics at Southern University and was a high school teacher. After joining the government, she earned master's degrees in business management, engineering, and national resources strategy. Of her work on contract management, the article quotes her as saying: "It appealed to my love of mathematics. I like structure and rules. I don't ever want to feel like I am in LaLa Land."  Allyn Jackson
"Quantum decoys create uncrackable code," by Mark Buchanan. New Scientist, 13 November 2004, page 8. This short article describes a recent breakthrough in quantum cryptography by researchers at the University of Toronto. One reason quantum codes were initially thought to be so powerful is that eavesdropping would disturb the photons used to carry the messages and therefore could be detected. Then researchers found a way whereby an eavesdropper could cover up his or her tracks. The new research shows how a messagesender can send out decoy photons that would foil an eavesdropper.  Allyn Jackson
"A fractal life": Interview with Benoit Mandelbrot. Interviewed by Valerie Jamieson. New Scientist, 13 November 2004, pages 5053. No mathematical object has become so well known among the general public as has the fractal. Benoit Mandelbrot coined the term and was the first to systematically explore this geometric phenomenon. In the interview, he talks about his views on the popularity of fractals, his background growing up in France, and the influence of his uncle, Szolem Mandelbrojt, who was a mathematician at the Collège de France in Paris. He also talks about his latest research on the concept of "negative dimension" and on the dynamics of financial markets. His book The (Mis)Behavior of Markets: A fractal view of risk, ruin and reward, written with Richard Hudson, came out in 2004.  Allyn Jackson
"Group Celebrates Giving Girls Equation for Success," by Michelle Maitre. Oakland Tribune, 8 November 2004. On November 14, 2004, an organization that has been working to get girls in the United States to take more challenging high school math and science courses celebrated its 30th anniversary. The organization is called the Math/Science Network. It was founded in San Francisco by a group of female "math whizzes and scientists" who were troubled by a study showing that female college freshmen didn't have the same math training as their male counterparts. In this article, Teri Perl, one of the founders of the organization, speaks about their history. In 1976, they organized their first "Expanding Your Horizons" allday conference at Mills College. The conference offered girls the opportunity to perform handson experiments in mathematics, science, and engineering, and to hear inspiring presentations by women working in these fields. Today there are 90 conferences held each year in 31 states for middle and high school girls. Perl says that although studies show that the conferences have made a difference, the need to interest girls in mathematics and science continues.  Claudia Clark
"Verifying Art With Math." Random Samples. Science, 3 December 2004, page 1678; Three researchers at Dartmouth College have devised a method to detect art forgeries. A statistical model, using wavelets, is made from highresolution scans of of works known to be painted or drawn by an artist. The work in question is also scanned and compared to the known works. The method was put to the test on 13 slides of works: eight originals by Pieter Breugel and five imitations of his work, and it correctly categorized all 13. The lead researcher, Hany Farid, agrees that the method is preliminary but foresees that more testing will lead to its improvement. The team's technique is described in "A digital technique for art authentication," published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.  Mike Breen
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