Math in the Media

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Short Summaries of Articles about Mathematics
in the Popular Press

"Study: Anthrax Tainted Up to 5,000 Letters," by Guy Gugliotta. Washington Post, 14 May 2002, page A2.

Two of the five people who died from anthrax, Kathy Nguyen and Ottilie Lundgren, had no direct contact with anthrax-infected mail. A mathematical model suggests that the reason for their deaths is cross-contamination of their mail. Vanderbilt University mathematician Glenn Webb developed a model for the progress of anthrax through the mail after being contacted by Martin Blaser, chair of medicine at the New York University Medical School. Webb's estimates are that the original letters contained one trillion spores, while Nguyen's and Lundgren's letters probably contained 10 to 100 spores. The research by Webb and Blaser, "Mailborne transmission of anthrax: Modeling and implications," was published in the May 14 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

--- Mike Breen