Math in the Media

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Mathematical Digest

Short Summaries of Articles about Mathematics
in the Popular Press

"Analyze This: A Physicist on Applied Politics," by Lawrence M. Krauss. NewYork Times, 21 November 2000.

In this article, a physicist examines the Florida electoral data as if it weredata from a scientific experiment. Six million people voted in Florida onelection day. "Such a vote normally produces a signal so clear that televisionnetworks can discern its nature even before the votes are counted," Krausswrites. "Not this time." Initially, the vote tally for the two presidentialcandidates differed by only 300 votes, which is not a statistically significantdifference. Mathematics tells us that if a new vote were held, "one would notbe surprised if the final vote count were to change by up to 10 times thisamount." Mathematics and science cannot decide elections. "Nevertheless,"Krauss writes, "we can learn from our experience in science about ways to makethe final measurement as sound and as significant as possible."

--- Allyn Jackson