Math in the Media

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Mathematical Digest

Short Summaries of Articles about Mathematics
in the Popular Press

"What is Random?," by Mike May. American Scientist, May/June1997, pages 222-223.

A manual for a certain piece of computer equipment in the offices of theAmerican Scientist, stated that a light on the equipment should beflashing "randomly." The author of this short article found this bit of advicerather useless, since no matter how long he watched the light flash, he couldnot convince himself that its flashing was random. His frustration led him ona search for a mathematical definition of "random." He did not find one, buthe describes some of the "elusive qualities of randomness" that he discoveredalong the way.

--- Allyn Jackson