Math in the Media

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Mathematical Digest


Short Summaries of Articles about Mathematics
in the Popular Press

"Randomly Distributed Slices of p," by CharlesSeife. Science, 3 August 2001, page793.

Although the digits of p appear to be so random that scientists andstatisticians have sometimes used them for generating random numbers,mathematicians have been unable to prove that the digits of p really arerandom. Now, two mathematicians, Richard Crandall at Reed College and DavidBailey at Lawrence Berkely National Laboratory, have made an important stridetoward a proof. A formula found in 1996 by Bailey and two other mathematiciansallows one to find the n-th digit of p simply by plugging ninto the formula. Crandall and Bailey have now made a hypothesis that formulasof this type produce values that, the article says, "skitter chaoticallybetween 0 and 1 for different digits that get plugged in." If this hypothesisis true, it would show that the digits of p are random.

--- Allyn Jackson