Math in the Media

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Mathematical Digest

Short Summaries of Articles about Mathematics
in the Popular Press

"A knotty story": Review of Knots: Mathematics with a Twist, by Alexei Sossinsky. Reviewed by Andrzej Stasiak. Nature, 30 January 2003.

Stasiak reviews the first English edition of Knots: Mathematics with a Twist, by Alexei Sossinsky (Harvard University Press, 2003, translated from the French edition of 1999 by Giselle Weiss). Sossinsky (professor of mathematics, University of Moscow) covers both historical and theoretical aspects of knots and the convergence of the mathematics of knots and quantum physics. The reviewer relays Sossinsky's description of the following discovery: "that knots that can be converted into one another by a simple set of surgical operations (cutting and pasting) are related to each other in a specific mathematical way, regardless of their actual shape and topology. For the reader, it is at first strange to see equations that use projections of these surgically related knots as graphical symbols. Still, with Sossinsky's help and with a little work, you will be able to write and solve these same equations for other sets of knots. This experience alone ... makes the book worth reading." The reviewer, a biologist, notes that there are some errors related to DNA in the book that could have been avoided if the author had consulted a biologist.

--- Annette Emerson