Math in the Media

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Mathematical Digest

Short Summaries of Articles about Mathematics
in the Popular Press

"Asimov's 'Foundation' theories on society move from fiction to academia," byTom Siegfried. Kansas City Star, 1June 2004.

Isaac Asimov's science fiction "Foundation" novels were published over 50 yearsago, but the new science described in them---"psychohistory", in whichscientists use equations to calculate human behavior---is no longer the stuffof fiction. The article describes how mathematics is now commonly used inresearch and reported in science journals to predict voting patterns, crowdbehavior, stock market trends, fads, rumors, and more. The field of "statisticalmechanics math" is now being used to study more than gas and chemical reactionsand magnetic materials: it is used to study problems such as traffic flow. Themathematics of networks---used to study the connectedness of molecules ingases---is applied to study TV networks, the electric power grid, airportslinked by direct flights, the internet and the spread of disease. "Sciencetoday has more to work with---the mathematics of statistical physics, economicgame theory and networking with modern neurobiology, brain scanning andanthropological experiments," and much of it can be used to explain or predicthuman behavior.

--- Annette Emerson