Publications Meetings The Profession Membership Programs Math Samplings Policy & Advocacy In the News About the AMS 
Math DigestSummaries of Media Coverage of MathEdited by Allyn Jackson, AMS January 2005
"Naming Names," by Brian Hayes. American Scientist, JanuaryFebruary 2005, pages 611. People frustrated with finding an unused name to set up an email account or upset because they've had to change their area code, understand that choosing an identifying name or number isn't easy. Hayes writes about the cluttering of "namespaces," the distribution of names in different settings, and the parallel between choosing names and hashing algorithms.  Mike Breen
"How to do an infinite number of things before breakfast," by John D. Barrow. New Scientist, 29 January 2005, pages 2832. Can an infinite number of tasks be performed in a finite time? For example, if the first task takes 1/2 a minute, the second 1/4 a minute, the third 1/8 a minute, and so on, then an infinite number of tasks could be performed within 1 minute. The idea of such an "infinity machine" goes back to the mathematician Hermann Weyl (18851955). Barrow shows how explorations of this intriguing idea lead to considerations about dynamical systems, black holes, and the twin paradox.  Allyn Jackson
"Wolf Prizes." Random Samples  People, Science, 28 January 2005, page 513. Gregory A. Margulis of Yale and Sergei P. Novikov of the University of Maryland have been named cowinners of the 2005 Wolf Prize in mathematics and will share US$100,000. The selection committee cited Margulis for his "monumental contributions to algebra," and Novikov for "the introduction of algebraicgeometric methods." The prize will be awarded on May 22 in Jerusalem.  Mike Breen
"Learning from 100 Numbers," by Gilbert Strang. Science, 28 January 2005, pages 5212. In this article Gilbert Strang reviews the book The SIAM 100Digit Challenge: A study in HighAccuracy Numerical Computing. The authors are four of the twenty winners of the challenge, referred to in the book title, which appeared in the JanuaryFebruary 2002 issue of SIAM News (SIAM stands for Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics). To win the contest, competitors had to compute 10 correct digits in the solutions of 10 different numerical analysis problems that were originally posed to Oxford University graduate students. Ninetyfour entries were submitted by teams and individuals. The book's authors discuss each of the ten problems and their solutions. Strang describes two of the problems, the first requiring competitors to compute a difficult integral. The second, a science problem more like the other contest problems, involves determining the probability of a particular event. Strang enjoyed the books and was "cheered" by the spontaneous teamwork of so many mathematicians previously unknown to each other. For additional information, see the book's Web page.  Claudia Clark
"Romanesque networks," by Steven H. Strogatz. Nature, 27 January 2005.
"Researchers explore mystery, and say gotcha," by Gareth Cook. The Boston Globe, 27 January 2005.
"Ein Diplomat mit Liebe für Zahlen und Schach," by George Szpiro. Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 23 January 2005. This article is about a recent paper on diophantine equations, written not by a professional mathematician but by an Indian diplomat.  Allyn Jackson
"Summers contrite about remarks," by Marcella Bombardieri. The Boston Globe, 20 January 2005. Comments by Harvard University President Lawrence Summers about women's success in math and science generated much controversy within the Harvard, mathematics, and science communitiesas evidenced by web postings, newspaper columns, and letters to the editor around the country. A search for "Lawrence Summers" in The Boston Globe and many periodicals during the week of January 17 in particular reveals the firestorm resulting from his remarksto date not made public verbatimwhich apparently implied that innate differences in women accounted for their low numbers in science professions. Bombardieri reports that Summers responded to the overwhelmingly negative reactions by posting a statement on the Harvard University website. Marcus's piece, published in other newspapers as well, considers the reaction to Summers' impolitic remarks. Both Summers and the question of why women are underrepresented in math and the sciences continue to generate much and impassioned discussion. See also: "Summers's Comments Draw Attention to Gender, Racial Gaps," by Andrew Lawler. Science, 28 January 2005, pages 492493;  Annette Emerson
"When Laziness Pays," by Erica Klarreich. Science News, 15 January 2005, pages 3536. The research described in this article attempts to answer an evolutionary puzzle: "Why do populations of identical organisms sometimes split into two strains, cooperators and cheaters?" (the cheaters are the lazy ones). The two strains are found in many populations, even among yeast cells. If there is a surplus of a desirable commodity, then some cheaters can be supported. They can then thrive while cooperators have to work harder to produce the commodity and sustain the population. The model for this process was developed by Timothy Killingback, Michael Doebels and Christoph Hauert. Killingback gave a talk on the model at the Joint Mathematics Meetings in Atlanta.  Mike Breen
"Handson Math Insights," by Bruce Bower. Science News, 15 January 2005, pages 3637. A new study suggests that students may learn better when lecturers use gestures that run counter to the technique they are describing. Two psychologists studied grade school students who were learning two particular mathematics problemsolving strategies. Some were taught without gestures, some were taught with gestures that matched the strategy, and the rest were taught with mismatched gestures: gestures appropriate to the other technique. Students taught with the latter technique learned best, although it is not clear why that should be the case. Students taught with no gestures learned worst of all.  Mike Breen
"Cultural Icons." Random Samples  People, Science, 14 January 2005, page 205. In April, the U.S. Postal Service will release stamps honoring four American researchers "who helped shaped science in the 20th century." The researchers are mathematician John von Neumann, thermodynamicist and mathematician Josiah Willard Gibbs, geneticist Barbara McClintock, and physicist Richard Feynman. Each stamp features a picture of the honoree and an illustration of his or her work.  Mike Breen
"Caltech dons thinking cap for CBS: Math expert advises smart new TV series," by Kimm Groshong. Whittier Daily News, 9 January 2005.
"Bridging the gap," by Ben D. MacArthur and Richard O.C. Oreffo. Nature, 6 January 2005. Researchers (in the Bone and Joint Research Group at the University of Southampton, UK) are using mathematical models in the emerging field of tissue engineering. One of the goals of tissue engineering is to produce replacement tissue. Currently the work involves the expertise of scientists across several disciplines"cell and molecular biologists, clinicians and materials scientists"but mathematicians are now collaborating, providing models. "In these models, cells are considered as distinct entities (or agents) positioned on an appropriate lattice, and simple cellular behaviours are prescribed, which, on their own or on the local scale, are insufficient to produce pattern. But on the global scale, structure is seen to emerge from longrange summation of these lowlevel behaviours. Such models are now being incorporated into practical work programmes to explore the behaviour of stemcell systems and mechanisms of tissue regulation." Another new direction of research is using "complex network theory to analyse the 'shape' of phenotypic regulatory mechanisms."  Annette Emerson
"Go with the throw," by Erica Klarreich. New Scientist, 1 January 2005, pages 4244.
"For some girls, the problem with math is that they're good at it," by Cornelia Dean. New York Times, 1 February 2005, page D3. Cornelia Dean served as science editor for the New York Times from 1997 to 2003. In her essay, she recalls some of the laughwhilegroaning moments she encountered while editor, in which male scientists could not quite seem to grasp the notion that the person holding this influential position was a woman. What she could never laugh at, though, was a memory from seventh grade. On a mathematics aptitude test, she proved herself to be several years ahead of the other kids. "The results were posted and everyone found out... A girl really good in math! What a freak! I resolved then and there on a career in journalism." Her essay was written on the occasion of remarks by Harvard president Lawrence Summers, who suggested that perhaps those who say there are biological reasons men perform better in math might have a point. The jury is still out on that question; in the meantime, Dean points out, there are plenty of social and cultural barriers to women's participation in math and science that need to be dismantled. Sharon Begley's article delves into whether the research behind Summers' remarks is as airtight as it is sometimes assumed to be. She also notes that the simultaneous ticking of the biological and tenure clocks means that many women will opt out of demanding careers in science and math. The controversy over Summers' remarks simmered for weeks afterward. See also the following Math Digest entry:  Allyn Jackson
"PrimeTime News," by Keith Devlin. Discover, January 2005, page 42. This issue of Discover contains the annual feature the "Year in Science." Mathematician Keith Devlin covers one of the top math stories of 2004. "What no mathematician had proved until this year is the longstanding conjecture that prime numbers come in arbitrarily long, finite arithmetic progressions." He briefly presents the historical breakthroughs by the Greeks, Jacques Hadamard of France, Charles de la Vallée Poussin of Belgium, Johannes van der Corput of the Netherlands, andin 2004the "nonconstructive existence proof" by Ben Green, then of the University of British Columbia, and Terence Tao of UCLA. The issue also includes Count Down: Six Kids Vie for Glory at the World's Toughest Math Competition, by Steve Olson, on the list of Top Science Books of the Year.  Annette Emerson

Comments: Email Webmaster 
© Copyright
, American Mathematical Society

