The transformer that provides electricity to the AMS building in Providence went down on Sunday, April 22. The restoration of our email, website, AMS Bookstore and other systems is almost complete. We are currently running on a generator but overnight a new transformer should be hooked up and (fingers crossed) we should be fine by 8:00 (EDT) Wednesday morning. This issue has affected selected phones, which should be repaired by the end of today. No email was lost, although the accumulated messages are only just now being delivered so you should expect some delay.
Thanks for your patience.
"When her numbers are up, it's bad news," by Billy Baker. Boston Globe, 30 June 2008.
"Study: Teachers not being taught math properly," by Nancy Zuckerbrod. Associated Press, 26 June 2008.
"TeacherPrep Programs' Fuzzy Math," by Paula Wasley. The Chronicle of Higher Education, 26 June 2008.
"Study: MacMurray instruction for math teachers falls short," by Kate Ramsay. Jacksonville JournalCourier, 27 June 2008.
"Report Critical of Math Teachers' Preparation," by James Heggen. Inside Higher Ed, 30 June 2008.
"Elementary Math Teachers May Need To Go Back To School," by Linda White. NBC13 (Alabama), 30 June 2008.

The National Council of Teacher Quality (NCTQ), a nonpartisan research and advocacy group, has issued a report that says that elementary school teachers are poorly prepared in math. NCTQ president, Kate Walsh, said, "As a nation, our dislike and discomfort with math is so endemic that we do not even find it troubling when elementary teachers admit to their own weaknesses in basic mathematics. Not only are our education schools not tackling these weaknesses, they accommodate them with low expectations and insufficient content." The report looked at 77 elementary education programs across the country and found
The report also found that it is possible in some states to pass the teacher licensing exam without answering a single math question on the exam correctly. The NCTQ recommends higher admission standards for education programs and more rigorous state licensing exams. MacMurray College, in Illinois, was one the schools in the study. Its president, Colleen Hester, faulted the study's methodology: "They just looked at syllabi," and not at measures of teacher competency or of elementary students' knowledge. Said a recent MacMurray graduate, "I felt prepared, but I don't think any college class can prepare you for actually teaching. I think experience in classrooms is what gets you ready, but as far as the content and what math skills I had to teach kids, that I was ready for." In response to the question (from the NBC 13 report), "Should someone be to blamefor teachers not knowing all the answers?", John Mayer, mathematics professor at the University of Alabama, Birmingham, says: "There's enough to go around... but ultimately it's up to parents and students to make sure they're getting the math knowledge they need for the future."  Mike Breen

"How hard can it be?", by Ian Stewart. New Scientist, 21 June 2008, pages 4649.
"Ancient Symmetries": Review of Solving Stonehenge: The new key to an ancient enigma, by Anthony Johnson. Reviewed by Nick Saunders. New Scientist, 21 June 2008, page 53.
"Nabbing suspicious SNPs," by Regina Nuzzo. Science News, 21 June 2008, pages 2023.
SNP (pronounced "snip") is an abbreviation for single nucleotide polymorphism, which is an alteration in a gene, sometimes only one letter in the DNA alphabet. The alterations can be the difference between having a disease and being healthy, so scientists are studying SNPs to see if they can find genetic causes of many diseases. Yet standard statistical methods weren't designed for the tremendous amount of data involved in genetic studies, so it is often hard to locate important SNPs for the disease being studied. A New England Journal of Medicine editorial compared such research to "drinking from a fire hose." Studies employing chips with up to a million SNPs will label up to 50,000 as "significant," even though very few SNPs are relevant. Furthermore, the statistical tools used in research can depend on the genetic variation in the study group: People whose ancestors left Africa early have less genetic diversity than those whose ancestors stayed longer. The genetic mixing can confound results. Biostatistician Michael Boehnke (University of Michigan) says, "If your goal is personalized medicine and developing your own personal genetic report card, we're definitely not there yet. I don't know whether we ever will be."
 Mike Breen
"Just Like the CBS Drama NUMB3RS: Police Use Math to Crack the Case," by Jana Eschbach. WPECTV, 20 June 2008.
Many of the stories on the CBS show NUMB3RS are based on true cases. The Port St. Lucie (Florida) Police Department used probability and statisticsmuch like the techniques employed in the TV show's pilotto analyze patterns in a rash of car breakins in the city. The analysis revealed hot spots that the police focused on. They set up a stakeout and subsequently found and arrested the two teenagers who had been operating late at night, stealing items from residents' cars. As a result, some people got their possessions back before they even knew they were missing.
 Mike Breen
"Film crystallizes life of Nobel winner Hauptman," by Shannon O'Sullivan. Buffalo Business First, 20 June 2008.
Hauptman "dedicated four decades to a problem that most chemists declared unsolvable: determining molecular structures. Until Hauptman, scientists would work for months making educated guesses based on Xray crystallography. Now, determining the atoms in a molecule can take just days or even hours because of his 'direct methods' equation. The impact: an untold number of lives have been saved." Hauptman with his research partner, Jerome Karle, was awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1985, which makes him the only mathematician to ever win the prize in chemistry. Filmmaker Paul Lamont has now produced a documentary on Hauptman, Herbert Hauptman: Portrait of a Laureate, which aired 22 June 2008 on WNED (Public Television Station covering Western New York and Southern Ontario). Now 91, Hauptman still goes to work every day at the HauptmanWoodward Medical Research Institute in Buffalo. He told the reporter that he "hopes the film teaches viewers the importance of science and math" and that his life "is an example of the unpredictable nature of scientific breakthroughs."
 Annette Emerson
"The MPG Illusion," by Richard P. Larrick and Jack B. Soll. Science, 20 June 2008, pages 15931594.
"Universal law of coiling," by Philip Ball. Nature, 19 June 2008, page 966.
"Playing by numbers," by Damian Zanette. Nature, 19 June 2008, pages 988999.
"Professor Finds the Art in Both Numbers and Letters: A Conversation with Manil Suri," by Claudia Dreifus. New York Times, 17 June 2008.
Manil Suri, a professor of mathematics at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, is not your typical mathematician. He is also a critically acclaimed novelist. Few people have been able to be successful in both areas, and in this interview conducted by Claudia Dreifus, Suri explains how he became who he is today and how he reconciled his two seemingly divergent lives. In his native India he was pressured to hide two very important aspects of his life: his desire to become a writer, and his sexuality. When he came to America with a fellowship in mathematics, he says, the latter was no longer an issue. But in the academic world he was still pressured to work on his writing in secret, he felt he wouldn't be taken seriously as a mathematician if he had other interests. After the succesful publication of his two novels he says he doesn't worry as much about his standing as a mathematician. He is more concerned now with finding innovative ways to do math outreach, as a way to put his two lives together, like giving lectures to writers about "The Mathematics of Fiction" and combining creative projects with mathematics in his classes.
 Adriana Salerno
"18YearOld is World's Youngest College Professor," by Faiza Elmasry. Voice of America, 16 June 2008.
"Grand designs", by Marcus du Sautoy. New Scientist, 14 June 2008, pages 3841.
This article takes a historical approach to describe the work of the 2008 Abel Prize winners, John Thompson and Jacques Tits. du Sautoy begins his story about symmetry with Niels Hendrik Abel, the 19thcentury mathematician for whom the prize is named. "Just as molecules can be broken down into atoms like sodiumm and carbon, or numbers can be built out of the indivisible primes such as 3, 5, and 7, the mathematicians of Abel's generation discovered that symmetrical objects can be decomposed into indivisible symmteric objects," he writes. These were named "simple groups", and they are the "atoms of symmetry". Thompson received the Abel Prize for his monumental proof, with Walter Feit, of the oddorder theorem, which provides a conenction between the symmetry of shapes and prime numbers. Tits received the prize for constructing higherdimensional geometric settings to explain symmetries of simple groups of a special kind. Finally, the article discusses the discovery of "the monster", an enormous simple group that is characterized as "sporadic" because it does not fit into the standard classification of simple groups. But the monster is not an "anomalous freak with no relation to reality", du Sautoy notes. "[T]he symmetries of the monster might actually underpin some of the deepest ideas of string theory".
 Allyn Jackson
"The Mathematical Mirror to Animal Nature," by Mark Buchanan. Nature, 14 June 2008, pages 714716.
In this article, writer Mark Buchanan chronicles different researchers' attempts to determine whether animal foraging behavior can be modeled with a Lévy flight, a type of random walk composed of "manylegged journeys in which most of the legs are short, but a few are much longer." Buchanan begins the story in 1996 when thengraduate student Gandhimohan Viswanathan and colleagues thought that the pattern they found in the records of albatross movements gathered by ecologists with the British Arctic Survey was characteristic of a Lévy flight. Within a few years, Viswanathan and other researchers started finding this pattern in the movements of other creatures.
Fast forward to 2004, when physicist Sergey Buldyrev, one of Viswanathan's original coauthors, found that the Lévy pattern was not present in new data of albatross movements. In reanalyzing the original data, he found that when he removed the data points that had been interpreted as long flights, but in fact turned out to be periods of rest on land, the Lévy pattern vanished. This was confirmed in October 2007, when a reanalysis of the original albatross data using updated statistical techniques found no evidence for Lévy flights.
The debate doesn't end there, however. For example, a few months later, behavioral ecologist David Sims and his colleagues reported that, using more sophisticated statistical methods and much larger data sets, they have powerful evidence for "Lévylike" patterns in the hunting behavior of sharks, penguins, and other marine predators. Buchanan writes that "Sims and others now suggest that the data really do point to Lévy flights for a variety of animals, including humans. Not everyone yet agrees with this position. But they do agree that the episode illustrates the difficulties inherent in identifying statistical patterns with limited data."
 Claudia Clark
"Students show their smarts at international science fair," by Rachel Ehrenberg. Science News, 7 June 2008, page 13;
"New Math Theorem Takes Second Place at Intel Science Fair," by Bonnie Elgie. Calgary Herald, 12 June 2008.
"What are the odds?: Excerpt from The Drunkard’s Walk," by Leonard Mlodinow. The Week Daily, 6 June 2008.
An outpouring of reader responses to the correctbutdifficulttounderstand answer that columnist Marilyn vos Savant provided to the wellknown, probabilitybased “Monty Hall Problem” demonstrates human difficulties in thinking about probability. Because human decisions are based on input from both the intuitive right brain and the logical left brain, we attempt to identify patterns where none appear and we have trouble distinguishing between random and nonrandom events. This leads to difficulty in understanding the probability of each possible outcome in a given situation. In the Monty Hall problem, for example, a game show contestant chooses which of three doors conceals a car; the host opens one of the unselected doors to display a goat. Although it appears that the contestant’s odds of winning the car are 50/50 regardless of whether he or she switches to the unopened, unselected door—because the position of the car among the three doors appears to be random—the contestant actually is more likely to win the car if he or she makes the switch; the article explains why.
 Lisa DeKeukelaere
"Most influential women scientist search is on," by Roger Highfield. The Daily Telegraph, 6 June 2008.
The company L'Oreal does more than produce cosmetics: it also sponsors the For Women in Science program that "awards fellowships to promising young women scientists, and laureates to recognize the women who have made key contributions." The most recent initiative is the For Women in Science website, which profiles over 40 women scientists throughout history and invites readers to vote for their favorite and nominate others. French mathematician Sophie Germain is one of the scientists on the list.
 Annette Emerson
"Astronomy Study Proves Mathematics Theorem," by Stephen Battersby. NewScientist, 5 June 2008.
"Accidental Astrophysicists," by Julie Rehmeyer. Science News Online, 13 June 2008.
"Die Lösung steht in den Sternen (The solution lies in the stars)", by George Szpiro. Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 20 July 2008.

Imagine looking through a telescope at a star far, far away. Now imagine that there are huge planets between you and the star. The light emanating from the star would bend around these planets, so that you would see more than one star when in reality there is only one. This is the basic principle behind what astrophysicists call "gravitational lensing". Sun Hong Rhie, while at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, studied a gravitational lens comprised of a very specific configuration of n coplanar objects and realized that the number of images obtained from one light source was 5n  5. Gravitational lenses give astronomers details of the distant universe, as Battersby says, but surprisingly they also helped prove a mathematics theorem. Completely independently, mathematicians Dmitry Khavinson and Genevra Neumann, from the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls, were trying to find the zeros of a family of rational harmonic functions, inspired by a conjecture of A. Wilmshurst that attempted to extend the Fundamental Theorem of Algebra. Khavinson and Neumann found that if n is the degree of the rational function an upper bound on the number of zeros is 5n5, but they couldn't prove that the bound was sharp. It so happens that the function Rhie used to find the number of "lensed" images was a harmonic rational function of the type Khavinson and Neumann were studying, and so when they discovered her research they were able to finish their proof. Thia research is described in "From the Fundamental Theorem of Algebra to Astrophysics: A 'Harmonious' Path", by Dmitry Khavinson and Genevra Neumann, Notices of the American Mathematical Society, June/July 2008.  Adriana Salerno

"Woolly thinking," by Maddy Costa. The Guardian (U.K.), 4 June 2008.
"New math tricks: knitting and crocheting," by Stuart Fox. MSNBC LiveScience, 6 June 2008.
"Hyperbolic crochet: it's where maths and domestic science meet and get weaving," by Jane Shilling. TimesOnline, 13 June 2008
"How crochet solved an ageold maths problem," by Alex Bellos. TimesOnline 1 July 2008.

Although our grandmothers may not have envisioned their knitting needles or crochet hooks as mathematical tools, many mathematicians are turning to the handicraft to fashion models of nonorientable surfaces, hyperbolic planes, and Lorenz manifolds. Tactile insight into difficult problems is provided for both the creators of these surfaces and those who observe the finished product. The impetus for all the articles is the "Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef" exhibition held at the Hayward Gallery in London. The project, conceived and curated by sistersand Institute for Figuring codirectorsMargaret and Christine Wertheim, draws attention to the fragility and endangerment of Australia's Great Barrier Reef. The unique exhibitactually a compilation of works by many crochetersfirst drew media attention in New York before the exhibition traveled to the U.K. The "Woolly thinking" article explains how Margaret Wertheim, a physicist and mathematician, became inspired by mathematician Daina Taimina's hyperbolic crochet work; the "Hyperbolic crochet" article delves into this marriage of mathematics and craft; and "How crochet solved an ageold maths problem" tells the story of how Daina Taimina (Cornell University) started creating hyperbolic shapes with crochet and what they have to do with mathematics. During the 2009 AMSMAA Joint Mathematics Meetings, there will be a Special Session on Mathematics in Fiber Art coorganized by Carolyn Yackel of Mercer University and SarahMarie Belcastro of Smith College, who were featured in some of the articles. Talks in the session will relate the fiber arts to symmetry groups, computer science, embeddings of graphs in surfaces, and cellular automata.  Annette Emerson and Brie Finegold

"Digital Image Forensics," by Hany Farid. Scientific American, June 2008, pages 6671.
"Profile: Hany Farid." An interview by Neil deGrasse Tyson on NOVA ScienceNOW, PBS, 25 June 2008.
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