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Barry Cipra is a freelance mathematics writer based in Northfield, Minnesota. He received the 1991 Merten M. Hasse Prize from the Mathematical Association of America for an expository article on the Ising model, published in the December 1987 issue of the American Mathematical Monthly, and the 2005 Communication Award of the Joint Policy Board for Mathematics. His book, Misteaks ... and how to find them before the teacher does... (a calculus supplement), is published by AK Peters, Ltd.
Dana Mackenzie is a freelance writer who specializes in mathematics and science. His love of both mathematics and writing began at a young age. When he was growing up, he was a big fan of Martin Gardner’s “Mathematical Games” columns in Scientific American. A smaller but also important influence was George Pólya’s two-book series Induction and Plausible Reasoning, which Mackenzie received as a math prize in high school. He graduated from Swarthmore College in 1979 and earned his Ph.D. in mathematics from Princeton University in 1983.
For thirteen years Mackenzie taught at Duke University and at Kenyon College, and he was particularly pleased to receive an award named after one of his models — the George Pólya Award for expository writing from the Mathematical Association of America. Nevertheless, he was not satisfied with his academic career, in part because the writing opportunities were too limited. In 1996 he heard about the Science Communication Program at the University of California at Santa Cruz and decided to take a chance on a new career as a popular writer. After graduating and completing a short internship with American Scientist, Mackenzie returned to Santa Cruz and started working as a freelancer.
Since 1997, Mackenzie has written for such magazines as Scientific American, Science, New Scientist, Discover, and Smithsonian. His first trade book, The Big Splat, or How Our Moon Came to Be, appeared on Booklist’s best-of list for 2003 and was one of Audible.com’s audiobooks of the year for 2010. Princeton University Press published his first full-length popular book about mathematics, titled The Universe in Zero Words, in 2012. In addition, he wrote volumes 7 and 8, and half of volume 6, in the What’s Happening in the Mathematical Sciences series. He received the Communication Award from the Joint Policy Board for Mathematics in 2012.
Mackenzie still lives in Santa Cruz with his wife Kay, his cat Max, and an ever-changing array of foster kittens.
This page is maintained by the author.
1165 Whitewater Cove
Santa Cruz, CA 95062
What's Happening in the Mathematical Sciences is a collection of articles highlighting some of the most recent developments in mathematics. These include important achievements in pure mathematics, as well as its fascinating applications.
On the pure mathematics side, "Prime Clusters and Gaps: Out-Experting the Experts" talks about new insights into the distribution of prime numbers, the perpetual source of new problems, and new results. Recently, several mathematicians (including Yitang Zhang and James Maynard) significantly improved our knowledge of the distribution of prime numbers. Advances in the so-called Kadison-Singer problem and its applications in signal processing algorithms used to analyze and synthesize signals are described in "The Kadison-Singer Problem: A Fine Balance". "Quod Erat Demonstrandum" presents two examples of perseverance in mathematicians' pursuit of truth using, in particular, computers to verify their arguments. And "Following in Sherlock Holmes' Bike Tracks" shows how an episode in one of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's stories about Sherlock Holmes naturally led to very interesting problems and results in the theory of completely integrable systems.
On the applied side, "Climate Past, Present, and Future" shows the importance of mathematics in the study of climate change and global warming phenomena. Mathematical models help researchers to understand the past, present, and future changes of climate, and to analyze their consequences. "The Truth Shall Set Your Fee" talks about algorithms of information exchange in cyberspace. Economists have known for a long time that trust is a cornerstone of commerce, and this becomes even more important nowadays when a lot of transactions, big and small, are done over the Internet. Recent efforts of theoretical computer scientists led to the development of so-called "rational protocols" for information exchange, where the parties in the information exchange process find that lies do not pay off.
Over the last 100 years many professional mathematicians and devoted amateurs contributed to the problem of finding polygons that can tile the plane, e.g., used as floor tiles in large rooms and walls. Despite all of these efforts, the search is not yet complete, as the very recent discovery of a new plane-tiling pentagon shows in "A Pentagonal Search Pays Off". Mathematics can benefit coaches and players in some of the most popular team sports as shown in "The Brave New World of Sports Analytics". The increased ability to collect and process statistics, big data, or "analytics" has completely changed the world of sports analytics. The use of modern methods of statistical modeling allows coaches and players to create much more detailed game plans as well as create many new ways of measuring a player's value. Finally, "Origami: Unfolding the Future" talks about the ancient Japanese paper-folding art and origami's unexpected connections to a variety of areas including mathematics, technology, and education.
Readership: General mathematical audience.