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.
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|Tony Phillips' Take on Math in the Media |
A monthly survey of math news
Moving with VIGRE. Vertical Integration of Research and Education is a 4-year old NSF program aimed improving the way higher mathematics education works in the United States. It's the focus of ``NSF Moves With VIGRE to Force Changes in Academia'' by Dana Mackenzie, in the May 24 2002 Science. The idea is to structure mathematics students' access into the profession, beginning with undergraduates, following the pattern of the more obviously experimental sciences like biology. The ``tetrahedral research groups'' devised at the University of Colorado, Boulder, for their successful VIGRE proposal exemplify vertical integation: each includes faculty, postdocs, graduate students and undergrads. The program is being administered with rigor. Of the twelve universities starting awards in 1999, three were not renewed: Rutgers, Carnegie-Mellon and Berkeley. How could this happen? Mackenzie quotes Calvin Moore, the Chair at Berkeley: ``One of our goals is to cultivate self-reliance. ... Some [students] thrive and others don't.'' A nice take on the program philosophy comes from Skip Garibaldi, a VIGRE-supported postdoc at UCLA whose research mentor has arranged for him to work with Jean-Piere Serre. As quoted by Mackenzie, he says: ``You can't get much above Serre, and you can't get much below me. So that's an example of vertical integration.''
A new kind of science? ``By relying on mathematical equations to describe the world, scientists for centuries have grossly limited their powers of explanation, asserts Stephen Wolfram'' is the start of Richard Monastersky's piece (Chronicle of Higher Edcation, May 17 2002) on the publication of Wolfram's long-awaited opus, "A New Kind of Science." The book is described by Jim Giles (Nature May 16 2002) as ``a call for researchers to turn away from calculus and other conventional mathematical tools ... .'' What is to replace calculus? Since John Conway's ``Game of Life'' (with roots in von Neumann's work in the 1940s, but first brought to wide attention by Martin Gardner in the October 1970 Scientific American) we have all known that a cellular automaton can start from a couple of simple rules and generate patterns of amazing complexity. Wolfram's fundamental innovation, as best reported by Edward Rothstein (New York Times ``Arts & Ideas'' section, May 11, 2002) is to posit that such automata are actually at work behind the complex systems (turbulence, consciousness, the local structure of space-time) that currently baffle scientific inquiry. ``Not only can complex designs and processes arise from the simplest of rules, but ... simple rules actually lie beind the most sophisticated processes in the universe.'' And the corollary: some complex processes cannot be handled by scientific laws in the way we know them. ``All we can do in such cases is discover the simple rules that give birth to the complexity. ... Everything else can be found only by `experiment': the process must run its course.''
Math teachers with no math. This may only be a problem in New York, but that's unlikely. The problem is the ``alternate route'' to high school teacher certification: a teacher can become certified with a Bachelor's degree in any subject and 36 credits of college-level mathematics courses. As reported by Alfred S. Posamentier, Dean of the School of Education at City College (Op-Ed, New York Times, May 11 2002), those math courses can actually be in accounting, finance, economics or engineering. ``Mathematics is one of the most important subjects in the curriculum, a necessary foundation for many other areas of study, and we are allowing people who may know precious little about it to teach it.'' The remedy? Reinforce the State's new ``math-immersion'' route to secondary school mathematics certification: ``offer college graduates with good academic records in quantitative fields of study a special sequence of courses in the foundations of arithmetic, geometry, algebra, trigonometry, combinatorics, probability and statistics.'' And boost teacher's salaries to competitive levels.
New / old math probes the big bang. ``A reconstruction of the initial conditions of the universe by optimal mass transportation'' is the title of an article in the May 16 2002 Nature by an international team mostly based at the CNRS Observatoire de la Côte d'Azur in Nice. ``We show that, with a suitable hypothesis, the knowledge of both the present non-uniform distribution of mass and of its primordial quasi-uniform distribution uniquely determines'' a map from present positions to the respective initial ones. The mathematics they use, which they call the Monge-Ampère-Kantorovich (MAK) method, goes back in part to Monge's solution of how best to move a pile of dirt from one location to another: you construct a ``cost'' function and minimize it. They have tested the MAK reconstruction on ``data obtained by a cosmological N-body simulation with 1283 particles,'' and exhibit the results. Caution: they note that ``when working with the catalogues of several hundred thousand galaxies that are expected within a few years, a direct application of the assignment algorithm in its present state would require unreasonablecomputational resources.''
dm -- = a m3/4[1-(m/M)1/4] dt
makhi bhakhi phakhi dhakhi .nakhi ~nakhi "nakhi hasjha skaki ki.sga "sghaki kighva ghlaki kigra kakya dhaki kica sga "sjha "nva kla pta pha cha kala-ard.ha-jyaa.h
ka=1 kha=2 ga=3 gha=4 "na=5 ca=6 cha=7 ja=8 jha=9 ~na=10 .ta=11 .tha=12 .da=13 .dha=14 .na=15 ta=16 tha=17 da=18 dha=19 na=20 pa=21 pha=22 ba=23 bha=24 ma=25
ya=30 ra=40 la=50 va=60 "sa=70 .sa=80 sa=90 ha=100
a=1 i=100 u=1002 .r=1003 .l=1004 e=1005 ai=1006 o=1007 au=1008
The following information is necessary to translate the table into modern notation. Angles are measured in minutes of arc, and the table gives sines for multiples of 225 minutes between 0 and 5400 (a right angle). The sines are also measured in minutes (this is the reverse of radian measure!); since a length of 1 along a unit circle corresponds to 180x60/pi=3438 minutes of arc, the sines calculated from the couplet must be divided by 3438 to match modern usage. Finally, the couplet gives the differences between consecutive sines. In the following table, the running total of the AArya-bha.tiiya entries is divided by 3438 and compared with the sine given by a calculator, both rounded off to 4 decimal places.
angle sine sine/ sine in from 3438 from minutes verse calculator 0 0 0 0 makhi 225 khi=200 ma=25 225 225 0.0654 0.0654 bhakhi 224 khi=200 bha=24 450 449 0.1306 0.1305 phakhi 222 khi=200 pha=22 675 671 0.1952 0.1951 dhakhi 219 khi=200 dha=19 900 890 0.2589 0.2588 .nakhi 215 khi=200 .na=15 1125 1105 0.3214 0.3214 ~nakhi 210 khi=200 ~na=10 1350 1315 0.3825 0.3827 "nakhi 205 khi=200 "na=5 1575 1520 0.4421 0.4423 hasjha 199 ha=100 sa=90 jha=9 1800 1719 0.5 0.5 skaki 191 ki=100 sa=90 ka=1 2025 1910 0.5556 0.5556 ki.sga 183 ki=100 .sa=80 ga=3 2250 2093 0.6088 0.6088 "sghaki 174 ki=100 "sa=70 gha=4 2425 2267 0.6594 0.6593 kighva 164 ki=100 va=60 gha=4 2700 2431 0.7071 0.7071 ghlaki 154 ki=100 gha=4 la=50 2925 2585 0.7519 0.7518 kigra 143 ki=100 ra=40 ga=3 3150 2728 0.7935 0.7934 hakya 131 ha=100 ya=30 ka=1 3375 2859 0.8316 0.8315 dhaki 119 dha=19 ki=ka+i=100 3600 2978 0.8662 0.8660 kica 106 ka=1 i=100 ca=6 3825 3084 0.8970 0.8969 sga 93 sa=90 ga=3 4050 3177 0.9241 0.9239 "sjha 79 "sa=70 jha=9 4275 3256 0.9471 0.9469 "nva 65 "na=5 va=60 4500 3321 0.9660 0.9659 kla 51 ka=1 la=50 4725 3372 0.9808 0.9808 pta 37 pa=21 ta=16 4950 3409 0.9916 0.9914 pha 22 5175 3431 0.9980 0.9979 cha 7 5400 3438 1. 1.