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May 2006
"Gauss's Day of Reckoning," by Brian Hayes. American Scientist Online, MayJune 2006.
"Science & Technology: Future Focus, Training the Next Generation," by Victoria L. Hudson et al. The Crisis, MayJune 2006, pages 3435. Jonathan Farley, one of five people profiled in the article, is on the cover of this issue of The Crisis. His profile has information about his educationhe is one of four brothers to graduate from Harvardand early scholarly work as well as his plans for the future: This month, Farley becomes chair of the department of mathematics and computer science at the University of the West Indies. His research area is lattice theory, which he has recently applied to homeland security. "We're not coming up with anything that's going to stop terrorists or catch Osama Bin Laden. We're creating tools that enable decision makers to make more logical decisions rather than relying on intuition or guesswork."  Mike Breen
"Swedish mathematician scoops Abel Prize," Independent Online (South Africa), 24 May 2006;
"Number power": Review of Dr. Euler's Fabulous Formula: Cures Many Mathematical Ills, by Paul J. Nahin. Reviewed by Matthew Killeya. New Scientist, 27 May 2006, page 54. This book tells the tale of the famous Euler formula, which provides a beautiful relation among the numbers e, pi, and i. The reviewer calls the tale "remarkable" but also notes that the book is filled with equations and therefore is a "challenging read".  Allyn Jackson
"Math Professor's Work Adds Up to an International Award," by Paul Fredericks. KBCITV (Boise, ID), 24 May 2006. Justin Moore, an associate professor of mathematics at Boise State University, won the 20,000euro prize (about US$25,000) in the Young Scholars' Competition at the Horizons of Truth Gödel Centenary 2006 in Vienna, Austria. The competition took place April 2729 and was held in honor of Kurt Gödel who was born April 28, 1906. At the competition, 10 finalists presented proposals on research related to Gödel's work. Moore's firstplace prizepresented by Garry Kasparovwas for his project "The continuum and aleph2." Also receiving 5000euro (about US$6300) prizes were Mark Van Atten of the Institute of History and Philsophy of Science and Technology of the University of Paris I, whose project is "Gödel and German Idealism", and Eli BenSasson of TechnionIsrael Institute of Technology, whose project is "Searching for a conditional answer to Gödel's question".  Mike Breen
"How Einstein struggled with his grand theoryand the maths," by James Randerson. The Guardian (UK), 22 May 2006.
"The answer isn't teaching to the test," by John Hazlehurst. The Colorado Springs Business Journal, 19 May 2006.
"Finding Common Ground in the U.S. Math Wars," by Jeffrey Mervis. Science, 19 May 2006, pages 98890. Recent years have seen many disputes in the mathematics community and in communities across the U.S. about how mathematics should be taught. The Common Ground Iniatitive is a sixmember group of mathematicians and mathematics educators created in 2004 to find agreement on issues in math education. Richard Schaar, former president of the calculator division at Texas Instruments, leads the group, which issued a threepage document of principles in math education, from kindergarten to high school. Schaar says that the document is not a curriculum, indeed the most that Common Ground participants hope to achieve is "to influence the process by which states develop standards, adopt textbooks, and develop the assessment tools to measure what students should be learning." The article lists seven areas of agreement among the group:
 Mike Breen
"Learning beyond the classroom," by Tracey Wong Briggs. USA Today, 17 May 2006.
"New MathRecent Algorithmic Art at LACDA." Artdaily.com, 17 May 2006. International artists are exhibiting works at the Los Angeles Center for Digital Art. Andy Lomas, Nathan Selikoff, Charles Fairbanks, Hollis Cooper, Tim Quinn, Thomas Briggs, and Milos Rankovic are exhibiting works created using computer algorithms, mathbased image generators, and/or customized software, and the author provides a brief profile of each and an overview of the process used to generate the images.  Annette Emerson
"The NSA's Math Problem," by Jonathan David Farley. The New York Times, 16 May 2006.
"ExUniversity President to Lead U.S. Math Panel," by Diana Jean Schemo. The New York Times, 15 May 2006; Last January, President Bush unveiled a plan to spend US$250 million to improve math education in elementary and middle schools. The plan, which is intended to help the U.S. maintain a competitive edge in math and science, involves the creation of a National Math Panel that will balance opposing viewpoints to formulate a nationwide strategy for math education. While older teaching plans involved rote memorization of equations, newer strategies focus more on the concepts that drive the formulas than on simply producing the correct solution. Larry R. Faulkner, the former president of the University of Texas at Austin and the newly selected chair of the Math Panel, views his role as a "shepherd" for the interests involved in the fiery debate between these conceptual and formulabased teaching approaches.  Lisa DeKeukelaere
"George Lenchner, 88, Dies After Life By the Numbers," by Margalit Fox. New York Times, 14 May 2006. In 1979, George Lenchner founded the Mathematics Olympiads for elementary and middle school students. As a math teacher on Long Island, NY, in the 1950s, Lenchner started the first scholastic math league outside of New York City, and an article he published in a national teachers' magazine inspired the creation of similar leagues across the country. Lenchner's Olympiads, which currently serve more than 100,000 students in all 50 states and more than two dozen foreign countries, are one of the few such organizations that involves socalled "mathletes" at the gradeschool level.  Lisa DeKeukelaere
"Algebra and Its Enemies," by Kenneth Silber. TCSDAily.com (Technology, Commerce, Society: A Publication of Tech Central Station), 8 May 2006.
"Speed Theater," by Sam Hurwitt. The San Francisco Chronicle, 7 May 2006. PlayGround exposes emerging playwrights in San Francisco to a variety of topics, from which they must write a 10page play in five days (to be submitted for review for possible performance at the Berkeley Repertory Theater). The Mathematical Sciences Research Institute (MSRI) has partnered with PlayGround on topics for three years, but this year was the first time that MSRI hosted a briefing on their topic, "zero sum game." Mathematicians Elwyn Berlekamp, David Einsenbud, and Aaron Spiegel gave presentations.  Annette Emerson
"Wired for math," by Carolyn Gramling. Science News, 6 May 2006, page 286. The study summarized in this article suggests that the human brain can process numerical information fairly early in life. Researchers studied fouryearolds and adults viewing a stream of computer images. The researchers found that in both groups the same region of the brainthe intraparietal sulcuswas active when the number of objects in the images changed. Says lead researcher Jessica Cantlon, "The takehome message is that by at least four years [of age], your brain is learning how to deal with quantitiative information. The same brain circuits appear to be important for doing mathematical tasks your whole life." The research results are published in the openaccess journal Public Library of Science Biology.  Mike Breen
"Free willyou only think you have it," by Zeeya Merali. New Scientist, 6 May 2006, pages 3236. This article juxtaposes two recent developments, one in physics and one in mathematics, which both have implications for the question of whether human beings have free will. The theory of quantum mechanics suggest that randomness is inherent in the universe. As Merali puts it, quantum mechanics tells us that "you cannot predict the outcome of an experiment; you can only estimate the probability of getting a certain result." If physical reality were actually deterministic, you could, given a sufficient amount of sufficiently precise data, predict the outcome of experiments with total certainty. Now physics Nobel laureate Gerard 't Hooft has put the finishing touches on a theory that says there is a deeper layer of physical reality that is deterministic. This theory in turn suggests that the idea of human free will is an illusion and that all our actions are deterministic. In the mathematics camp are John H. Conway and Simon Kochen, who have proved an intriguing mathematical result showing that, if human beings have even the slightest bit of free will, then so do particlesand hence physical reality is not deterministic. Conway believes that he does have free will: "I believe I am free to drink this cup of coffee, or throw it across the room," he is quoted as saying. Thus he and Kochen believe there must be a flaw in 't Hooft's theory. As it happens, the theory deals with physical reality at a scale that is inaccessible by current experimental methods. Since it has not been tested experimentally, no one knows for sure whether the theory truly reflects reality.  Allyn Jackson
"Math teacher wins TV spot," by Grace Aduroja. Chicago Tribune, 4 May 2006. Sheila Hardin, a math teacher at Oak Park and River Forest High School in Illinois, was selected in an online sweepstakes to make a cameo appearance on the CBSTV show NUMB3RS next season. Hardin was nominated by her student, Kevin Binder, who will also travel to Hollywood for the filming and who said that Hardin is "really encouraging and gets you excited about math." The contest received about 28,000 entries from almost 8,000 students. Hardin's selection was announced in St. Louis at the annual meeting of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. She was notified that she had won by email, but deleted most of the messages, thinking that they were spam. When she opened one of the messages and called the number, to ask that the emails stop, she found out that she had won. The article concludes with Hardin's reaction to being nominated: "I was really excited and touched. Every time a student recognizes you in any way, it reminds you that you're doing something."  Mike Breen
"Math + letter writing = free Puffs tissues," by Stephanie Stang. WNDUTV (South Bend, IN), 3 May 2006. Procter and Gamble printed five simple arithmetic problems on some of its boxes of Puffs tissues. Rochester, Indiana English teacher Lauri Wilhite tried the problems but couldn't get the answers printed on the box, so she asked the math department for help. It turned out that three of the five answers were wrong. For example, 1 + 7 x 4  5. The answer on the Puffs box is 27, but the correct answer is 24 because multiplication is done before addition and subtraction. The three wrong problems were all calculated left to right instead of following the standard order of operations. In fact, the two correct answers on the box were correct because the lefttoright calculation agreed with the order of operations. Wilhite's students at Rochester Middle School wrote Procter and Gamble about the errors, and Dave Minifie, Puffs Brand Manager, went to the school to apologize for the mistake. He said that the company would send the school 5000 boxes of Puffs (the school goes through about 1000 boxes a year) to atone for its mistake. Now that the company knows the order of operations, it may have to work on units: When this segment aired, Procter and Gamble had sent nine boxes to the school instead of nine pallets of boxes.  Mike Breen
"Ask.Com's Friendly Math Professor Does TV Show and Tell," by Jenny Holland. Brandweek.com, 3 May 2006. The website Ask Jeeves has been relaunched as Ask.com. It claims search capabilities superior to those of Google and uses an algorithm called ExpertRank, developed by former Rutgers University math professor Apostolos Gerasoulis. Ask.com is advertising its relaunch with a series of unscripted TV commercials featuring the exuberant Gerasoulis himself using the search engine. Data from March 2006 shows the search engine with 6 percent of the market, compared to Google's 43 percent. One ad ends with Gerasoulis saying, "Google is big, that's for sure. If you notice, through evolution, the biggest animals go first."  Mike Breen
"When Slide Rules Ruled," by Cliff Stoll. Scientific American, May 2006, pages 8087.
"America's 100 Best." Special issue of Reader's Digest, May 2006, page 96. Math makes the magazine's America's Best list this year. Ranking numbers 30 and 31 are NUMB3RS (the TV program, for "inspiring new mathematicians") and Edward Burger of Williams College (for his book, Coincidences, Chaos, and All That Math Jazz: Making light of weighty ideas, from which Reader's Digest quotes: "What allows us to discuss sex, drugs and death with such quantitative glee? Welcome to statistics.").  Annette Emerson

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