Math in the Media

Also see the Blog on Math Blogs

Mathematical Digest

Short Summaries of Articles about Mathematics
in the Popular Press

"Glimpses of Genius," by Erica Klarreich. Science News, 15 May 2004, pages314-315.

This article expands considerably on news from December regarding theStomachion---a fragment of a palimpsest, originally written by Archimedes. Thefirst analysis, done almost 100 years ago, didn't reveal anything beyond whatlooked like a simple children's puzzle of forming a square out of a collectionof 14 triangles, quadrilaterals, and a pentagon. Now it appears that Archimedeswas actually doing some combinatorics, in this case counting the number of waysthe pieces could be arranged to form a square. Klarreich cites Persi Diaconis,Ron Graham, and Fan Chung, who not only counted the 268 ways to arrange thepieces, but also have looked at properties that the arrangements have. RevielNetz, a math historian at Stanford, and Nigel Wilson, a classics professor atOxford, are preparing an article regarding their study of the palimpsest.

--- Mike Breen