My brother, Peter Borwein, is a distinguished Canadian mathematician who has something intimate in common with Ann Romney. They both have multiple sclerosis. But as you will see from the following letter that he just wrote to me, the differences outweigh their similarities.
Ann Romney was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) in 1998. She was born in 1949. I was diagnosed with MS in 1996. I was born in 1953. Exact dates of diagnosis are inexact. MS rarely has an exact starting date. But we were both in our midtolate forties: a little atypicallylate onset but not extreme.
Continue reading Ann Romney and my Brother
Famed mathematician William Thurston died Tuesday 21 Aug 2012, at his home in Rochester, New York, from cancer. He was arguably one of the handful of 20th century mathematicians — pure or applied — who will be discussed in some detail in 22nd century histories of mathematics and science. As Edward Tenner wrote in the Atlantic Even as he contributed to theoretical physics, Bill’s work was proof that the most abstract math can have gorgeous practical applications.
Although he did work in several areas, the majority of Thurston’s research work was in geometry and topology, namely the branch of mathematics
Continue reading Mathematician William Thurston dies at 65
In a remarkable New York Times OpEd, former climate change skeptic Richard Muller of the University of California, Berkeley, declares not only that global warming is real, but also that “humans are almost entirely the cause.” This is an even stronger statement than that of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which in its 2007 report concluded only that “most” of the warming during the past halfcentury was attributable to human causes.
Muller’s Berkeley Earth group approached the problem by rigorously analyzing historic temperature reports. As he described their efforts,
We carefully studied issues raised by skeptics: biases from
Continue reading A former climatechange skeptic now agrees most warming is caused by humans
Physicists working at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at the CERN facility on the FrenchSwiss border today confirmed what many have suspected over the past few months — they have discovered a new subatomic particle that appears to be the longsought Higgs boson, which is widely regarded as the key to why some elementary particles have mass, and thus why a universe with matter (and us) exists at all.
With the words “I think we have it,” director RolfDieter Heuer signaled the longest (and most expensive!) search in the history of science. While more work needs to be done, the
Continue reading Higgs discovery underscores effectiveness of mathematical theory
In a previous Math Drudge blog, we mentioned the increasing number of instances of scientific fraud. We also noted how in many cases, mathematical and statistical methods have been utilized to uncover this fraud.
In November 2011, Netherlands psychologist Diederik Stapel was accused of publishing “several dozen” articles with falsified data. For example, one article claimed that disordered environments such as littered streets make people more prone to stereotyping and discrimination. After being accused of massive fraud in Science, Stapel confessed that the allegations were largely correct.
Now another Netherlands social scientist is in hot water. Some clever statistical analysis
Continue reading New case of scientific fraud
The present bloggers, together with Francisco Aragon Artacho (University of Newcastle, Australia) and Peter Borwein (Simon Fraser University, Canada, and Jonathan Borwein’s brother), have just completed the paper Tools for visualizing real numbers: Planar number walks.
This manuscript describes analysis of the digits of pi and many other real numbers and quantifies various techniques of modern computer visualization. In most of these analyses, the authors address a real number (represented in base4 digits, i.e., 0, 1, 2, 3) as a “random walk,” typically by moving one unit east, north, west or south, depending on whether the digit at a given
Continue reading New paper on visualizing digits of pi
In 1742, German mathematician Christian Goldbach wrote, in a letter to famed mathematician Leonhard Euler, that he believed “Every integer greater than two can be written as the sum of three primes.” In subsequent correspondence, the stronger version “Every even integer can be expressed as the sum of two primes” was suggested, as well as some other variants. The “odd” variant of the Goldbach conjecture is that every odd number greater than 7 can be expressed as the sum of three odd primes.
To this date, although extensive computer tests have found no counterexamples to these conjectures, no proofs are
Continue reading Terence Tao releases partial solution to the Goldbach conjecture
The present bloggers have instituted a new category of brief postings under the rubric of “Numbers to note.” These are items that we see posted in news media or other sources with particularly interesting data of one type or another relating to either current events or to developments in science and/or technology. In many cases the notable numbers belie previous or current political bombast.
Our first posting comes from a very interesting set of charts just released by the U.S. Treasury entitled “The Financial Crisis Response in Charts”. This is chockfull of intriguing data on the recent financial crash of
Continue reading Numbers to note (#1): Treasury report on TARP program
Endre Szemerédi, who has positions both at Rutgers University in the USA, and the Alfréd Rényi Institute of Mathematics in Hungary, has been awarded the 2012 Abel Prize for mathematics.
The Abel Prize, which is accompanied by a monetary award of approximately USD$1 million, is widely considered comparable to the Nobel Prize. It has been granted by the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters since 2003. It is named for the 19th century Norwegian mathematician Niels Henrik Abel, who did groundbreaking work in algebra and analysis, including the first complete proof that a general fifth degree polynomial is not solvable
Continue reading Endre Szemeredi wins Abel Prize for work in mathematics and computing
Many are familiar with the 1997 defeat of Garry Kasparov, the world’s reigning chess champion, by IBM’s “Deep Blue” computer [1997 NY Times article]. This feat was hailed as a major milestone in the development of artificially intelligent computer systems.
But even this feat was overshadowed by the 2011 defeat of the two most successful contestants on the American quiz show Jeopardy!, by a new IBMdeveloped computer system named “Watson” [2011 NY Times article]. As we explained in a previous blog article, the Watson achievement was significantly more impressive than the Deep Blue because it involved “natural language understanding,” namely
Continue reading Computer challenges human crossword puzzle solvers

