Mathematics in the News

'Anumeric' People: When Languages Have No Words for Numbers Live Science - April 30, 2017

Numbers do not exist in all cultures. There are numberless hunter-gatherers embedded deep in Amazonia, living along branches of the world's largest river tree. Instead of using words for precise quantities, these people rely exclusively on terms analogous to "a few" or "some." In contrast, our own lives are governed by numbers. As you read this, you are likely aware of what time it is, how old you are, your checking account balance, your weight and so on. The exact (and exacting) numbers we think with impact everything from our schedules to our self-esteem. But, in a historical sense, numerically fixated people like us are the unusual ones. For the bulk of our species' approximately 200,000-year lifespan, we had no means of precisely representing quantities. What's more, the 7,000 or so languages that exist today vary dramatically in how they utilize numbers. Speakers of anumeric, or numberless, languages offer a window into how the invention of numbers reshaped the human experience. In a new book, I explore the ways in which humans invented numbers, and how numbers subsequently played a critical role in other milestones, from the advent of agriculture to the genesis of writing.

The 22 Million Digit Number ... and the Amazing Maths Behind Primes Epoch Times - January 21, 2016

It is a quite extraordinary figure. Dr Curtis Cooper from the University of Central Missouri has found the largest-known prime number - written (274207281)-1. It is around 22m digits long and, if printed in full, would take you days to read. Its discovery comes thanks to a collaborative project of volunteers who use freely available software called GIMPS (Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search) to search for primes. A number which can only be divided by itself and 1 without a remainder is called a prime number. Here is a list of the primes less than 100: 2, 3, 5, 7, 11, 13, 17, 19, 23, 29, 31, 37, 41, 43, 47, 53, 59, 61, 67, 71, 73, 79, 83, 89, 97.

New largest prime number found PhysOrg - January 20, 2016

A team at the University of Central Missourihas announced they have found the largest prime number ever - it is 274,207,281 - 1, it has over 22 million digits. The new record has broken the old record by approximately 5 million digits.

Tutoring relieves math anxiety, changes fear circuits in children, study finds PhysOrg - September 8, 2015

Anxiety about doing math problems can be relieved with a one-on-one math tutoring program, according to a new study. Even if they are good at math, many children feel anxious about doing math problems. For some, the anxiety persists throughout life, discouraging them from pursuing advanced math and science classes as well as careers that rely on mathematical expertise. Yet almost no attention has been paid to how to help alleviate this problem.

Origami: Mathematics in Creasing Live Science - January 7, 2015

Origami is the ancient Japanese art of paper folding. One uncut square of paper can, in the hands of an origami artist, be folded into a bird, a frog, a sailboat, or a Japanese samurai helmet beetle. Origami can be extraordinarily complicated and intricate. The art of origami has been going through a renaissance over the past 30 years, with new designs being created at ever-increasing levels of complexity. ItÕs no coincidence that this rise in origami complexity has emerged at the same time scientists, mathematicians and origami artists themselves have been discovering more and more of the mathematical rules that govern how paper folding works.

Who's afraid of math? Study finds some genetic factors Science Daily - March 18, 2014

A new study of math anxiety shows how some people may be at greater risk to fear math not only because of negative experiences, but also because of genetic risks related to both general anxiety and math skills. The results don't mean that math anxiety can be blamed solely or even mostly on genetic factors, the researchers emphasized. In this study, genetic factors explained about 40 percent of the individual differences in math anxiety.

After 400 Years, Mathematicians Find a New Class of Solid Shapes Live Science - February 19, 2014

The work of the Greek polymath Plato has kept millions of people busy for millennia. A few among them have been mathematicians who have obsessed about Platonic solids, a class of geometric forms that are highly regular and are commonly found in nature. Since Plato's work, two other classes of equilateral convex polyhedra, as the collective of these shapes are called, have been found: Archimedean solids (including truncated icosahedron) and Kepler solids (including rhombic polyhedra). Nearly 400 years after the last class was described, researchers claim that they may have now invented a new, fourth class, which they call Goldberg polyhedra. Also, they believe that their rules show that an infinite number of such classes could exist.

Mathematics: Why the brain sees maths as beauty BBC - February 13, 2014

Brain scans show a complex string of numbers and letters in mathematical formulae can evoke the same sense of beauty as artistic masterpieces and music from the greatest composers. Mathematicians were shown "ugly" and "beautiful" equations while in a brain scanner at University College London. The same emotional brain centres used to appreciate art were being activated by "beautiful" maths.

What's the Universe Made Of? Math, Says Scientist Live Science - January 30, 2014

Brooklyn, NY - Scientists have long used mathematics to describe the physical properties of the universe. But what if the universe itself is math? That's what MIT cosmologist Max Tegmark believes. In Tegmark's view, everything in the universe - humans included - is part of a mathematical structure. All matter is made up of particles, which have properties such as charge and spin, but these properties are purely mathematical, he says. And space itself has properties such as dimensions, but is still ultimately a mathematical structure. "If you accept the idea that both space itself, and all the stuff in space, have no properties at all except mathematical properties," then the idea that everything is mathematical "starts to sound a little bit less insane," Tegmark said in a talk given Jan. 15 here at The Bell House. The talk was based on his book "Our Mathematical Universe: My Quest for the Ultimate Nature of Reality" (Knopf, 2014). "If my idea is wrong, physics is ultimately doomed," Tegmark said. But if the universe really is mathematics, he added, "There's nothing we can't, in principle, understand."

Listen to Max's interview The Guardian - February 3, 2014

Donated Chinese bamboo strips turn out to be ancient multiplication table PhysOrg - January 9, 2014

Researchers at Tsinghua University in China are reporting that a subset of bamboo strips donated to the university five years ago has been found to make up an ancient Chinese multiplication table. Dated back to 2,300 years ago (circa 305 B.C.), the table represents the oldest-known such device that computes in base 10 - ancient Babylonian tables dating back 4000 years were base 60. The bamboo strips were part of a much larger collection of very old and partially decomposed bamboo strips, all of which had writing on the back.

Some Polynesian islanders combined binary and decimal math PhysOrg - December 17, 2013

When we think of binary math, we think of computers. A number system with only two digits makes calculations quick and easy. However, binary numbers can be very long and, therefore, unwieldy. While binary numbers might be great for machines, decimal numbers are shorter and more comfortable for people to use. A system that combines the benefits of base 2 and base 10 could be ideal.

Sudden Progress on Prime Number Problem Has Mathematicians Buzzing Wired - November 22, 2013

On May 13, an obscure mathematician - one whose talents had gone so unrecognized that he had worked at a Subway restaurant to make ends meet - garnered worldwide attention and accolades from the mathematics community for settling a long-standing open question about prime numbers, those numbers divisible by only one and themselves. Yitang Zhang, a lecturer at the University of New Hampshire, showed that even though primes get increasingly rare as you go further out along the number line, you will never stop finding pairs of primes separated by at most 70 million. His finding was the first time anyone had managed to put a finite bound on the gaps between prime numbers, representing a major leap toward proving the centuries-old twin primes conjecture, which posits that there are infinitely many pairs of primes separated by only two (such as 11 and 13).

Largest Prime Number Discovered Live Science - February 6, 2013

The largest prime number yet has been discovered - and it's 17,425,170 digits long. The new prime number crushes the last one discovered in 2008, which was a paltry 12,978,189 digits long. The number - 2 raised to the 57,885,161 power minus 1 - was discovered by University of Central Missouri mathematician Curtis Cooper as part of a giant network of volunteer computers devoted to finding primes, similar to projects like SETI@Home, which downloads and analyzes radio telescope data in the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence(SETI). The network, called the Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search (GIMPS) harnesses about 360,000 processors operating at 150 trillion calculations per second. This is the third prime number discovered by Cooper.

The World's Most Beautiful Equations Live Science - January 29, 2013

General relativity

Mathematical equations aren't just useful - many are quite beautiful. And many scientists admit they are often fond of particular formulas not just for their function, but for their form, and the simple, poetic truths they contain. While certain famous equations, such as Albert Einstein's E = mc^2, hog most of the public glory, many less familiar formulas have their champions among scientists. LiveScience asked physicists, astronomers and mathematicians for their favorite equations; here's what we found:

The Life of Pi, and Other Infinities New York Times - December 31,, 2012

On this day that fetishizes finitude, that reminds us how rapidly our own earthly time share is shrinking, allow me to offer the modest comfort of infinities. Yes, infinities, plural. The popular notion of infinity may be of a monolithic totality, the ultimate, unbounded big tent that goes on forever and subsumes everything in its path Ñ time, the cosmos, your complete collection of old Playbills. Yet in the ever-evolving view of scientists, philosophers and other scholars, there really is no single, implacable entity called infinity. Instead, there are infinities, multiplicities of the limit-free that come in a vast variety of shapes, sizes, purposes and charms. Some are tailored for mathematics, some for cosmology, others for theology; some are of such recent vintage their fontanels still feel soft. There are flat infinities, hunchback infinities, bubbling infinities, hyperboloid infinities. There are infinitely large sets of one kind of number, and even bigger, infinitely large sets of another kind of number.

Pi Wikipedia

Pi is a mathematical constant that is the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter, and is approximately equal to 3.14159 and number that goes on infinitely.

Stanford mathematician: In reality, simulation is key to math education PhysOrg - February 22, 2010

A massively multiplayer online game requiring players to employ mathematical concepts could revolutionize the teaching of mathematics at the middle school level, according to Stanford mathematician Keith Devlin. That's the age when math and science proficiency plummets among U.S. students. Devlin says the game project would be so complex and expensive that the federal government would likely have to spearhead it. But, he said, a pilot project showed such a game would be doable.

Few Gender Differences in Math Abilities, Worldwide Study Finds Science Daily - January 7, 2010

Girls around the world are not worse at math than boys, even though boys are more confident in their math abilities, and girls from countries where gender equity is more prevalent are more likely to perform better on mathematics assessment tests, according to a new analysis of international research.

Audio slideshow: The art of mathematics BBC - September 17, 2008

To the untrained eye, these vivid images might appear to be random sets of colorful swirls and circles. But they are in fact precise visual representations of mathematical theory known as dynamical systems.

Numbers follow a surprising law of digits, and scientists can't explain why PhysOrg - May 11, 2007

Does your house address start with a 1? According to a strange mathematical law, about 1/3 of house numbers have 1 as their first digit. The same holds true for many other areas that have almost nothing in common: the Dow Jones index history, size of files stored on a PC, the length of the worldÕs rivers, the numbers in newspapersÕ front page headlines, and many more.

248-dimension math puzzle solved BBC - March 19, 2007

An international team of mathematicians has detailed a vast complex numerical "structure" which was described more than a century ago. Mapping the 248-dimensional structure, called E8, took four years of work and produced more data than the Human Genome Project, researchers said. E8 is a "Lie group", a means of describing symmetrical objects. The team said their findings may assist fields of physics which use more than four dimensions, such as string theory. Lie groups were invented by the 19th Century Norwegian mathematician Sophus Lie (pronounced "Lee").

Amazon Children "Spontaneously" Understand Geometry National Geographic - January 20, 2006

Children of an isolated Indian group in the Amazon jungle have a seemingly natural understanding of geometry concepts, even though their language doesn't have words for them, according to a new study. This doesn't necessarily make the children unique, the study authors say. Instead, it may mean that most human brains, regardless of education, are hardwired for a basic level of geometry comprehension.

Mathematicians solve old problem that may have new applications PhysOrg - December 26, 2005

A twisted soap bubble with a handle? If you find that hard to visualize, it's understandable. Experts had thought for more than 200 years that such a structure was not even mathematically possible. But no longer.

Greatest maths problem 'solved' BBC - June 10, 1004

A mathematician at Purdue University in the US claims to have proved the Riemann Hypothesis - called the greatest unsolved problem in maths. The hypothesis concerns prime numbers and has stumped the world's mathematicians for more than 150 years. Now, Professor Louis De Branges de Bourcia has posted a 23-page paper on the internet detailing his attempt at a proof.

Prime number breakthrough BBC - April 4, 2003

A pair of mathematicians has made a breakthrough in understanding so-called prime numbers, numbers that can only be divided by themselves and one. Other mathematicians have described the advance as the most important in the field in decades.

How random is Pi? BBC - July 23, 2002

Mathematicians have achieved a major step towards answering the question of whether numbers like pi and other mathematical constants are truly random and for the first time linked number theory with chaos theory.
It is not just a mathematical curiosity they say. Proving that pi never repeats itself would be a major advance in our theory of numbers. It may also allow the construction of unbreakable codes based on long sequences of random numbers. The value of pi is known to 500 billion places. No cyclic patterns have been found and if mathematicians are correct none will ever be found no matter how many digits are calculated.

The largest prime number yet discovered has just been revealed to the world BBC - December 5, 2001

The prime number - a number that can only be divided by one and itself - was discovered by Michael Cameron, a 20-year-old Canadian participant in a mass computer project known as the Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search (Gimps). Mersenne primes are important for the theory of numbers and they may help in developing unbreakable codes and message encryptions. The Gimps project spent 13,000 years of computer time to find the new prime number.

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