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A monthly survey of math news
Atiyah, Singer in The Boston Globe. "MIT professor wins major international math prize" was the heading on a March 30 2004 "White Coat Notes" item by Scott Allen in the Globe. The story is the award of the 2004 Abel Prize to Isadore Singer (MIT) and Michael Atiyah (now at Edinburgh) for their 40-year-old discovery of the Index Theorem. "The Atiyah-Singer index theorem calculates the number of solutions to complex formulas about nature based on the geometry of surrounding space, an idea that is difficult to explain but amazingly useful in both math and physics." The wide applicability of the index theorem in physics was referred to by the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters in their citation, where, as quoted by Allen, they described the work as "instrumental in repairing a rift between the worlds of pure mathematics and theoretical particle physics." King Harald will present the prize on May 25.
Math Ed in Britain. Two separate pieces were posted by Gary Eason on the BBC News World Edition website, both on February 24, 2004. The first one, "Action plan to rescue maths," refers to Making Mathematics Count, a report published that day, in which Adrian Smith (Queen Mary College, London) blasted the "Curriculum 2000" reforms of secondary education, in particular of the GCSE (General certificate of secondary education) as "an utter and complete disaster for mathematics." Eason gives the following synopsis of the report's recommendations. (The A-levels cover the most advanced material).
Statistical Topology of Networks. "Superfamilies of Evolved and Designed Networks" appears in Science for March 5, 2004. The authors are a team of 8 scientists in various departments of the Weizmann Institute. The idea is to classify networks by the statistical properties of their local topology, in the case of oriented networks by the statistical significance of each of the 13 possible "direct connected triads". These correspond to the exactly thirteen ways (up to symmetries of the triangle) of placing forward (F), backward (B) and double-headed (D) arrows on the three edges of a triangle so that all three vertices are touched: