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New York Times features story on James Simons

On 7 July 2014, the New York Times ran a feature story on James H. Simons, the well-known geometer, hedge fund founder, billionaire and philanthropist. Here are some of the fascinating facts uncovered in the Times story and elsewhere:

Simons was born in 1938 in Newton, Massachusetts, the son of a shoe factory owner. Simons

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Inaugural Breakthrough Prizes in Mathematics announced

June 23, 2014 was a nice day for mathematicians Simon Donaldson, Maxim Kontsevich, Jacob Lurie, Terence Tao and Richard Taylor. They were informed that they will be receiving the inaugural Breakthrough Prizes in Mathematics, each with a cash award of USD$3,000,000.

The Breakthrough Prizes in Mathematics complement the Breakthrough Prizes in Fundamental Physics, which were

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Can Pi be trademarked?

Background

Intellectual property law is complex and varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but, roughly speaking, creative works can be copyrighted, while inventions and processes can be patented. In each case the intention is to protect the value of the owner’s work or possession.

For the most part mathematics is excluded by the Berne

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Borwein on the Australian scientific research budget

One of the present bloggers (Jonathan M. Borwein) has published an article in The Conversation on the proposed cuts to scientific research in the latest Australian federal budget. While some medical research has been spared, other sectors, notably basic science, are being cut severely.

The cuts include AUS$74 million cuts to the Australian Research Council

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Sinai receives 2014 Abel Prize

Yakov Sinai, Professor of Mathematics at Princeton University since 1993, has been awarded the 2014 Abel Prize for his groundbreaking research in dynamical systems, ergodic theory and mathematical physics. A stipend of approximately USD $1,000,000 accompanies the prize, which is often referred to as the “Nobel Prize” of mathematics.

The Abel Prize is named after

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Gravitational waves confirm mathematical prediction of inflationary big bang

In a dramatic announcement on March 16, 2014, a team of astronomers led by John Kovac of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics said that they have detected gravitational waves, confirming predictions made by mathematical physicists Alan Guth, Andrei Linde and others in the 1970s and 1980s.

Gravitational waves from inflation, with their distinctive twisting pattern,

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Is philosophy needed in mathematics and science?

Introduction

In a 2004 review in Science of Searle’s Mind a Brief Introduction, neuro-scientist Christof Koch wrote Whether we scientists are inspired, bored, or infuriated by philosophy, all our theorizing and experimentation depends on particular philosophical background assumptions. This hidden influence is an acute embarrassment to many researchers, and it is therefore not often acknowledged.

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Upcoming ICMS special session on random walks

A special session “Software, Design and Practice in Random Walks” has been scheduled for the upcoming Fourth international Congress on Mathematical Software (ICMS2014), to be held in Seoul, August 5-9, 2014.

This session will examine interactions between software use/design and random walk research, in a broad sense. More details, including abstract submission guidelines, can be

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Pi day 3.14 (14)

Pi is very old

The number pi = 3.14159265358979323846… is arguably the only mathematical topic from very early history that is still being researched today. The Babylonians used the approximation pi ≈ 3. The Egyptian Rhind Papyrus, dated roughly 1650 BCE, suggests pi = 256/81 = 3.16049…. Early Indian mathematicians believed pi =

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Why mathematics is beautiful and why that matters

Scientists through the ages have noted, often with some astonishment, not only the remarkable success of mathematics in describing the natural world, but also the fact that the best mathematical formulations are usually those that are the most beautiful. And almost all research mathematicians pepper their description of important mathematical work with terms like “unexpected,”

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