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Tilting at windmills

Don Quixote

September 29, 2014 is the 467th birthday of Spanish author Miguel de Cervantes, whose immortal Don Quixote is widely regarded as one of the greatest works of literature in any language. In fact, in 2002 the Norwegian Book Club named Don Quixote as “best literary work ever written” in their listing of the

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To frack or not to frack: That’s not the question

The latest IPCC report

The latest draft edition of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report includes some rather stark language:

Continued emission of greenhouse gases will cause further warming and long-lasting changes in all components of the climate system, increasing the likelihood of severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems.

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Opportunities and challenges in experimental mathematics

“Experimental mathematics” has emerged in the past 25 years or so to become a competing paradigm for research in the mathematical sciences. An exciting workshop entitled Challenges in 21st Century Experimental Mathematical Computation was held at the Institute for Computational and Experimental Research in Mathematics (ICERM), July 21-25, 2014, which explored emerging challenges of experimental

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Formal proof completed for Kepler’s conjecture on sphere packing

Introduction

On 10 August 2014, a team led by Thomas Hales of the University of Pittsburgh, USA, announced that their decade-long effort to construct a computer-verified formal proof of the Kepler conjecture was now complete. The project was known as Flyspeck, a rough acronym for “Formal Proof of Kepler.”

The Kepler conjecture is the assertion

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2014 Fields Medals announced

On 13 August 2014, at the quadrennial meeting of the International Congress of Mathematicians, this year held in Seoul, Korea, the four winners of the 2014 Fields Medals were announced by the International Mathematics Union, which administers the awards.

This year’s awardees are:

Artur Avila, a Brazilian mathematician (the first Brazilian mathematician to win the

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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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