Math in the Media

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Math Digest

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Short Summaries of Articles about Mathematics
in the Popular Press

"Long waits willalways try patients," by Philip Ball. Nature Science Update,5 April 2001.

It seems that every visit to a doctor involves a good deal of waiting.One could make the inference that if there were more doctors, or a differentsystem, there'd be less waiting. This article reports on a study by DominicSmethurst and H. C. Williams which suggests that patients' waiting timesobey a power law. Thus, long waiting times may be inherent in any medicalsystem. Ball points out that the study is based on waiting times for onlyfour doctors (over a six-year period), so we may have to wait to get thefull story.

--- Mike Breen