Modern economics is … sick

Geoffrey M. Hodgson Economics has increasingly become an intellectual game played for its own sake and not for its practical consequences for understanding the economic world. Economists have converted the subject into a sort of social mathematics in which analytical rigour is everything and practical relevance is nothing. … Read More>>

Mathematics in US after Fall of Communism

The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1992 brought an influx of Soviet mathematicians to U.S. institutions, and those scholars’ differing areas of specialization have changed the way math is studied and taught in this country, according to new research by University of Notre Dame Economist Kirk Doran and George Borjas from Harvard University. Titled … Continue reading

Renaissance learning shaped Galileo’s genius

In Galileo’s Muse, Mark A. Peterson navigates the multiple streams that flowed together to form the great mathematician’s genius William R. Shea GALILEO was professor of mathematics and physics at the University of Padua, Italy, from the end of the 16th century, a time when ancient learning was being recovered. In Galileo’s Muse, Mark A. … Continue reading

How to Mentally Calculate the Day of the Week for Any Date

The so-called doomsday algorithm uses clever mental arithmetic and mnemonic tricks to enable a quick determination. Trick question: What day did September 6, 1752, fall on? Chamberlain Fong  Every now and then a prominent religious zealot proclaims that the end is nigh. Harold Camping is the most recent example of such a doomsayer. He declared … Continue reading

Math disability tied to bad number sense

Problems estimating quantities may underlie arithmetic cluelessness By Bruce Bower Math doesn’t add up for some kids, and a weak number sense may be partly to blame. An evolutionarily ancient ability to estimate quantities takes a big hit in children with severe, instruction-resistant math difficulties, say psychologist Michèle Mazzocco of the Kennedy Krieger Institute and … Continue reading

Intuitions Regarding Geometry Are Universal

All human beings may have the ability to understand elementary geometry, independently of their culture or their level of education. This is the conclusion of a study carried out by CNRS, Inserm, CEA, the Collège de France, Harvard University and Paris Descartes, Paris-Sud 11 and Paris 8 universities (1). It was conducted on Amazonian Indians … Continue reading

Mathematical model reveals how tattoos age

Catherine de Lange, contributor The tattoo now and in 30 years (Image: Simon Dack/The Brighton Argus) People may choose to wear a tattoo as a sign of religious commitment, to declare their love, or… well, for other reasons.  But no matter what the design, all tattoos fade and smudge over the decades, because the permanent … Continue reading

Cry havoc! And let slip the maths of war

Warfare seems to obey mathematical rules. Whether soldiers can make use of that fact remains to be seen IN 1948 Lewis Fry Richardson, a British scientist, published what was probably the first rigorous analysis of the statistics of war. Richardson had spent seven years gathering data on the wars waged in the century or so … Continue reading

Weird geometry

Art enters the hyperbolic realm Hyperbolic space is a Pringle-like alternative to flat, Euclidean geometry where the normal rules don’t apply: angles of a triangle add up to less than 180 degrees and Euclid’s parallel postulate, governing the properties of parallel lines, breaks down. That fascinates mathematical artist Vi Hart, who creates hyperbolic "tilings" from … Continue reading

Leonardo da Vinci’s Mathematical Slip-Up

A geometric drawing by da Vinci contains an error, as revealed by Dutch mathematician and sculptor Rinus Roelofs By Dirk Huylebrouk  Image: Courtesy of Eos Artist, inventor and philosopher Leonardo da Vinci (1452–1519) was without a doubt a genius. Yet, there is some criticism. In his book 1434: The Year a Magnificent Chinese Fleet Sailed … Continue reading

Math Skills Rely on Language, Not Just Logic

By Lisa Grossman Knowing a language that uses counting words can shape one’s ability to understand large numbers. A new study of deaf people who have made up their own hand signals to communicate shows that without number words, it’s hard to keep track of more than three objects at a time. “Learning language really … Continue reading

Cracking the Scratch Lottery Code

By Jonah Lehrer Is the apparent randomness of the scratch ticket just a facade, a mathematical lie? Photo: John Midgley Mohan Srivastava, a geological statistician living in Toronto, was working in his office in June 2003, waiting for some files to download onto his computer, when he discovered a couple of old lottery tickets buried … Continue reading

Measuring hell

Was modern physics born in the Inferno? by Chris Wright “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” When Sir Isaac Newton made this remark, in 1676, the name Galileo Galilei would not have been far from his mind. Galileo, who died the year Newton was born, did much … Continue reading

A Sabermetrics Video Unlike Any You’ve Seen

By Erik Malinowski Sabermetrics, the study and analysis of advanced baseball statistics, is not for everyone. It really does take a special kind of fan to devote time to this endlessly informative and often maddeningly difficult science to master. Luckily, we’ve got you covered. Today, we’ll go over easier-to-grasp concepts called FIP, or Fielding Independent … Continue reading

Is Powerball a Mug’s Game?

It all depends on when you play—and what value you put on a dollar. By Jordan Ellenberg Were you stupid not to play? I don’t have to ask myself; I played. My father and his Ph.D. in statistics put me in for a 20 percent share of his four tickets. But I got enough razzing … Continue reading

Equation: Formula for Calculating a Skycraper’s Sway

By Julie Rehmeyer Photo courtesy: Taipei 101 A skyscraper is a giant tuning fork. Give one a good knock — like with an earthquake or a heavy gust of wind — and it’ll start vibrating at its own natural resonance frequency (about seven octaves below the lowest notes on a piano). If you’re on the … Continue reading

Mathematical immortality? Give a theorem your name

Jacob Aron  During my time as an eager undergraduate mathematician, I’d often wonder what it would feel like to prove a truly new result and have my name immortalised in the mathematical history books. I thought that dream had died when I gave up maths to become a science writer, but Aron’s theorem is now … Continue reading

Secret of Big Caves Revealed by Math

Alexandra Witze A new mathematical analysis solves a longstanding cave-formation puzzle: how a trickle of water laced with carbonic acid manages to quickly dissolve rock to create massive conduits. The trick, it seems, is that fluid flow focuses rapidly in certain channels, which grow at the expense of others and allow the acid to penetrate … Continue reading

Cost of Walking

Do kids and small adults walk differently from taller people or do they tire faster for some other reason? Peter Weyand from Southern Methodist University, USA, is fascinated by the effect that body size has on physiological function. "This goes back to Max Kleiber’s work on resting metabolic rates for different sized animals. He found … Continue reading

How Should You Launch a Ball to Achieve the Greatest Distance?

Physics gives a precise answer, at least in an ideal setting In the Projectile Motion episode of NBC Learn’s "The Science of NFL Football," you see that punted footballs travel in an arc known to mathematicians as a parabola. In any football game both teams square off against each other and against a shared opponent … Continue reading

Brain Zaps Improve Math

by Jennifer Carpenter Need to improve your math skills or do your taxes faster? Try zapping your brain with electricity. Researchers have shown that administering a small electrical charge to the brain may enhance a person’s ability to process numbers for up to 6 months. The team says the approach, which it claims is harmless, … Continue reading

Mathematics of text messaging could help cellcos manage networks

By Casey Johnston Human communication patterns, particularly in the form of text messages, appear to follow a pattern that’s a fusion of two mathematical models. In a paper published in PNAS on Monday, researchers analyzed a large set of text messages from service providers and found most users trade over 90 percent of their messages … Continue reading

Benoit Mandelbrot (RIP) and the quest for a theory of really everything

By John Horgan The passing of the mathematician Benoit Mandelbrot has triggered in me a wave of nostalgia for the 1980s, when Mandelbrot and other researchers seemed to be creating a scientific revolution. They hoped that sophisticated new mathematical techniques, plus increasingly powerful computers, could help them fathom a wide range of complex, nonlinear phenomena—from … Continue reading

Geeky Math Equation Creates Beautiful 3-D World

By Alexis Madrigal Editor’s note: We are rerunning this gallery of 3-D images inspired by the work of Benoit Mendelbrot, who is best known for popularizing fractal mechanics. Mandelbrot died Oct. 14, 2010, at the age of 85. The quest by a group of math geeks to create a three-dimensional analogue for the mesmerizing Mandelbrot … Continue reading

“He Gave Us Order Out of Chaos” — R.I.P. Benoît Mandelbrot, 1924-2010

By Matt Blum Image via Wikimedia Commons. There is sad news this morning. It has yet to be confirmed by the mainstream media, but it seems that Benoît Mandelbrot, the father of fractal geometry and one of the most famous mathematicians of all time, has passed away about a month shy of his 86th birthday. … Continue reading

Teaching Math as Narrative Drama

By Katherine Mangan Waco, Tex. Matt Nager for The Chronicle Edward Burger at Baylor U. When Edward B. Burger presents a math challenge to his class at Baylor University, he paces the aisles and pairs students together. "I want to hear chattering," he says. Before long, students are laughing and shouting out answers. He dashes … Continue reading

unlock the mathematical secrets of verse

Science and poetry were once closer than they are now, writes Steve Jones in response to National Poetry Day. By Steve Jones  Lord Byron, a rather better poet than Erasmus Darwin and a fan of Newton. Photo: GETTY Thursday is National Poetry Day, a fact that once would have been of much interest to scientists. … Continue reading

Making Math Lessons as Easy as 1, Pause, 2, Pause …

Jennifer S. Altman for The New York Times Students learning Singapore math, like these fourth graders at Quaker Ridge School in Scarsdale, N.Y., use many hands-on and visual aids. By WINNIE HU  FRANKLIN LAKES, N.J. — By the time they get to kindergarten, children in this well-to-do suburb already know their numbers, so their teachers … Continue reading

Hands in the Air: How Gesturing Helps Us to Think

Gestures reveal subconscious knowledge and cement new ideas By Susan Goldin-Meadow A teacher watches a fourth-grade student try to solve the equation 4 + 3 + 6 =  + 6. The child pencils 13 in the blank. “How did you get that answer?” the teacher asks. “I added the 4 and the 3 and the … Continue reading

Four winners of the 2010 Fields Medal announced

By John Matson. There is no such thing as the Nobel Prize in Mathematics, but fortunately the field of math dishes out its own top honors every four years, bestowing the prestigious Fields Medal on two to four researchers. (Unfortunately for mathematicians, the cash prize attached to the Nobels is a far sight bigger.) Four … Continue reading

New proof unlocks answer to the P versus NP problem—maybe

By Matt Ford A paper that leaked onto the Web late last week claims to have solved one of the great modern problems in mathematics and computer science. Vinay Deolalikar, a principle research scientist at HP labs, has published a first draft of what he claims is a proof that P != NP. Unlike someone … Continue reading

Infinite Life

By Oren Harman. Naming Infinity: A True Story of Religious Mysticism And Mathematical Creativity By Loren Graham and Jean-Michel Kantor (Belknap Press, 239 pp., $25.95) A starry firmament, or sand cascading through one’s open fingers, or weeds springing up time after time: the first conception of infinity, of the uncountable and the unending, is not … Continue reading

Nassim Nicholas Taleb

By Mehdi Hasan. “Cameron is extraordinary. He’s the only thing we have left” Many people believed that the banking crisis was unforeseeable, but you disagreed. Well, I wrote in my book The Black Swan that the banking system was sitting on dynamite. I made bets on it because nobody was listening. Your investments and books … Continue reading

A quarter-century of recreational mathematics

By Martin Gardner My “Mathematical Games” column began in the December 1956 issue of Scientific American with an article on hexaflexagons. These curious structures, created by folding an ordinary strip of paper into a hexagon and then gluing the ends together, could be turned inside out repeatedly, revealing one or more hidden faces. The structures … Continue reading