"Strict Ordering Slashes Tarmac Time," by Philip Ball. Nature, 28 February 2008, page 1040.
In air transportation, the problem of boarding quickly affects both airlines and passengers alike. New research by Jason Steffen, a physicist at the Fermilab in Batavia, Illinois, gives some insight into how the boarding procedure could be improved. Steffen applied a computational technique known as the Monte Carlo algorithm to simulate the boarding of an aircraft. The simulation admitted passengers on board at random, each with a predetermined seat number, and each taking a random amount of time stowing their luggage (which he assumes is the biggest cause of delay). Then Steffen looked for the boarding patterns that filled the aircraft the quickest. The worst method, unsurprisingly, was boarding fronttoback, but the usual method (backtofront) was only slightly better. The quickest patterns all indicated that there should be more attention placed on the relative positions of the seats. Two methods he suggested included boarding groups of people in rows that were widely separated from each other and boarding window seats first. Steffen showed that these strategies could halve the boarding time and are so efficient that they would work better than the usual methods even if some people didn't board in the right order.
 Adriana Salerno
"Teaching a computer to appreciate art", by Bryan Nelson. MSNBC.com, 25 February 2008.

In this article, Bryan Nelson reports on some work in the field of computer vision that may eventually be used to detect forgeries. Using the works of five of the world's greatest painters (Rembrandt, van Gogh, Dali, Magritte, and Kandinsky), computer science professor Daniel Keren at the University of Haifa has developed a computer program that has been fairly successful at correctly distinguishing the style, and paintings, of one artist from another. The program works by dividing each painting into small, discrete blocks, then computing certain values for each block, based upon certain features the program has been taught to identify. Based upon these values, each block can be mapped to a specific artist, although the overall painting can be classified as well. Read more about Keren's work online.  Claudia Clark

"Casino Security: Counting a legend," by Arnold M. Knightly. Las Vegas ReviewJournal, 25 February 2008.
"An Attack on Fermat," by Julie Rehmeyer. Science News Online, Week of 23 February 2008.
Mathematician Andrew Wiles received worldwide fame in 1995 for solving Fermat's Last Theorem, first posed 350 years earlier, but few know that Sophie Germaina French woman who disguised her gender and worked with such famous mathematicians as Gauss, Legendre, and Lagrangemade a solid attempt to solve the problem as well. Germain was the first woman to do significant research in mathematics, and her attack on Fermat's theorem was recently uncovered by two American professors who combed through her notes that were stored in a French library. Her approach to Fermat's last theorem is significant because she was one of the first to propose a method for proving the theorem for all numbers, not just individual cases. Her accomplishment is even more remarkable because she did not have a formal mathematical education. She did take the name of a male student in order to correspond with professors at the university, but her notes reveal that she probably worked alone.
 Lisa DeKeukelaere
"Maths in action": Review of How Round is Your Circle?, by John Bryant and Chris Sangwin. Reviewed by Mattew Killeya. New Scientist, 23 February 2008, page 50.
This short review calls this "a gem of a book" that reveals why mathematics is crucial to engineering and understanding the world. "[T]he authors do a refreshing job of bringing out the mathematics you learned in school but sadly never knew why," the reviewer writes.
 Allyn Jackson
"Looking behind the numbers": Interview with John Ioannidis. Interviewed by Jim Giles. New Scientist, 16 February 2008, page 45.
In 2005, clinical epidemiologist John Ioannidis published in a prominent medical journal a paper called ``Why most published research findings are false''. Ioannidis trained in internal medicine, but he also liked mathematics and found it difficult to choose between the two. In addition to a medical degree, he earned a PhD in biopathology and nowadays holds faculty positions at the University of Ioannina in Greece and Tufts University in Boston. After coming into contact with researchers who were doing metaanalysis of medical studies, Ioannidis became interested in, as he puts it in the interview, ``how to inject robust quantitative thinking into clinical work''. His work uses sophisticated statistical techniques to analyze medical studies. In his 2005 paper, he used these techniques to try to model the probability of a research finding being true. ``For some areas, if you get a positive result then it is 85 percent or even 90 percent likely to be true,'' Ioannidis told the interviewer. ``That is the case for very largescale randomized clinical trials with very clear protocols, full reporting of results and a long chain of research supporting the finding beforehand. Then there is the other extreme, where an experiment is so poorly designed or so many analyses are performed that a statistically significant finding wouldn't have better than a 1in1000 chance of being true.''
 Allyn Jackson
Articles about sessions at the 2008 Joint Mathematics Meetings, by Barry Cipra. Science, 15 February 2008, pages 898899.
"Baseball's Devil May Not Be in the Details," by Alan Schwarz. New York Times, 10 February 2008.
"Russian immigrant solves math puzzle," by Judy SiegelItzkovich, The Jerusalem Post, 8 February 2008.
"Israeli immigrant solves 38yearold math problem", by Karin Kloosterman. Israel 21C, 18 February 2008.

Avraham Trakhtman, a professor at BarIlan University (Israel), has solved the Road Coloring Problem, first posed in 1970. One statement of the problem is that given a map of N cities and 2N oneway roads, for which each city has exactly two roads leading out of it, and at least one leading in, is it possible to color each road red or blue, so that "universal directions" can be given? Universal directions are those that will get a traveler to his or her destination regardless of his or her location on the map (a more precise statement is online). One such mapcoloring, from Wikipedia, is at left. Trakhtman has answered the question in the affirmative. His solution will be published in the Israel Journal of Mathematics. An abstract is online. Trakhtman immigrated to Israel from the Soviet Union in 1990. He worked as a guard for five years before becoming a professor at BarIlan. See also:  Mike Breen

"How Much is a Trillion?" by Ira Flatow. Science Friday, National Public Radio, 8 February 2008.
"A Human Rights Statistician Finds Truth in the Numbers," by Jina Moore. Christian Science Monitor, 7 February 2008.
"The Forensic Humanitarian," by Jim Giles. New York Times Magazine, 17 February 2008.
Patrick Ball helped build the case against former dictator Slobodan Milosevic for an international criminal tribunal not by examining laws Milosevic violated, but by carefully comparing migration patterns to the ups and downs of the ongoing war. His conclusion? Bombings and violence by both sides were not the cause of migration surges—but a specific effort to remove people from their homes could have been. Ball, a statistician, has spent his career collecting and analyzing data on migration and death tolls from Yugoslavia to Peru in an effort to help sort out the truth of human rights violations. He realizes, however, that statistics alone provides only a measure of plausibility, a way to rule things out. The numbers cannot supply the correct alternative explanation, and a graph cannot demonstrate how it felt to experience the atrocity.
 Lisa DeKeukelaere
"On the Job: Math mavens seek solutions", by Karen Maserjian Shan. Poughkeepsie Journal, 5 February 2008.
"Microsoft Adds Research Lab in East as Others Cut Back," by Katie Hafner. The New York Times, 4 February 2008.
Microsoft announced recently that in July 2008 it will be opening a sixth research lab, this one in Cambridge, next door to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The lab would focus on pure research, rather than product development, and will be led by Jennifer Tour Chayes, a mathematical physicist. "We believe that in the long run, putting money into basic research will pay off, but you have to wait longer for it," says Chayes. The veteran researcher explains that later on the "development people" will use the insights gathered from the research to create new products. The labs also offer a high level of intellectual freedom, which Chayes cites as one of the main reasons she stays content at Microsoft. Microsoft Research, which houses about 800 researchers with doctorates, is becoming one of the few corporate research labs that is growing in size rather than shrinking, with perhaps Google labs being the only exception. It is also one of the first labs of this nature to have a female director. As such, Chayes hopes to also become a role model for women in mathematics and the computer sciences.
 Adriana Salerno
"When Math Warps Elections," by Sharon Begley. Newsweek, 4 February 2008.

Begley tests different voting methods offered by the American Statistical Association, and reports how voting methods determine the outcomes. She notes, "For anyone who believes in democracy, this is a little disturbing. What it means is that `election outcomes can more accurately reflect the choice of an election rule than the voters' wishes,' writes mathematician Donald Saari of the University of California, Irvine." Anyone may try the three voting methods to choose among four candidates from the Democratic and from the Republican party in this year's Presidential elections and see the results on an interactive voting methods on the website, one of the 2008 Mathematics Awareness Month "Mathematics and Voting" theme resources at www.amstat.org/mathandvoting.  Annette Emerson

"No god required": Review of Irreligion: A Mathematician Explains Why the Arguments for God Just Don't Add Up, by John Allen Paulos. Reviewed by Amanda Gefter. New Scientist, 2 February 2008, page 48.
In his latest book, Paulos "wades through the classical arguments for the existence of God and systematically refutes them," the reviewer writes. She enjoyed the book but was hoping for a new, more specifically mathematical perspective. What she found, though, is that the book "covers welltrodden ground".
 Allyn Jackson
"In the Movies." Newsmakers, Science, 1 February 2008, page 553.
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