Monday, July 31, 2017

Claude Shannon… & Guest Posts Anyone?

Newly out, “A Mind At Play,” a biography of Claude Shannon:
(the title seems to be a play on Siobhan Roberts very successful/excellent bio of John Conway entitled “Genius At Play”)
Also, John Horgan has posted a piece on the bio and on Shannon’s life (including an old interview):
Meanwhile... I’m having limited time to devote to blog posts at moment with too many summer things intervening, but if anyone is interested in writing a math-themed “guest” post for either here or MathTango, let me know [sheckyr[AT]gmail…] and I’d consider that to pick up some of the slack! Just let me know what you have in mind (...please, no proofs of the Riemann Hypothesis, P vs. NP, etc. ;)

Sunday, July 30, 2017


From a recent Michael Harris essay:
“The ideology of mathematical certainty and objectivity is our most potent weapon; we should not allow it to be used to undermine democracy. With regard to mathematical modeling, we should constantly remind anyone who is willing to listen that a model is not objective or scientific just because it is mathematical.”

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Michael Harris Asks "Do Mathematicians Have Responsibilities?"

H/T to Peter Woit for pointing out this provocative piece from Michael Harris (author of "Mathematics Without Apologies") on Reuben Hersh, politics, Embodied AI, and mathematics: 

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Replicate THIS

If you missed it, last week’s NPR’s “On The Media” show included a nice segment (number 2 out of 4) on the ongoing replication problems in psychology:

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Real Numbers... not simple at all

a reflection on the reals...:

"The metaphor of the real numbers as a line... is very simple and self-evident. In fact, the identification of the real numbers with the picture of a line is almost too simple because it gives people the impression that the real number system itself is simple and easily understood. Yet real numbers are not simple at all -- in fact, real numbers are one of the most complex creations of the human mind. Even today, all kinds of questions about real numbers are not understood, and remain unresolved."

-- William Byers in "The Blind Spot"

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Prime Stuff...

Always elusive prime numbers...

1) Super piece from Kevin Hartnett in Quanta today about the work of Kaisa Matomäki on prime factors and related ideas:

2) ...and timely, as it follows up on a new Numberphile video yesterday with James Maynard on prime gaps:

3)  And earlier in week Evelyn Lamb pointed out this fun li'l excursion into prime numbers I'd missed from a few weeks back:

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Robert Langlands

Wonderful piece on Robert Langlands... not sure what the date on it is (I assume recent?), but h/t to Graham Farmelo for pointing it out on Twitter:

Sunday, July 16, 2017

In Memoriam

For Sunday reflection, this from Maryam Mirzakhani in a prior Guardian interview (re-published from the Clay Mathematics Institute):
“…the most rewarding part is the ‘Aha’ moment, the excitement of discovery and enjoyment of understanding something new – the feeling of being on top of a hill and having a clear view. But most of the time, doing mathematics for me is like being on a long hike with no trail and no end in sight…. 
“I don't think that everyone should become a mathematician, but I do believe that many students don't give mathematics a real chance. I did poorly in math for a couple of years in middle school; I was just not interested in thinking about it. I can see that without being excited mathematics can look pointless and cold. The beauty of mathematics only shows itself to more patient followers."
[also see yesterday's posting ]

Saturday, July 15, 2017

"A Light Was Turned Off Today..."

VERY sad news today in the math world with the announcement of mathematician/Fields Medalist's Maryam Mirzakhani death from cancer at the all-too-young age of 40. When I see some more lengthy tributes to her posted I’ll add some links below. For now I'll pass along Erica Klarreich's profile from a few years back... and, a Neil Diamond oldie:


Terry Tao posted this:

This from Stanford University where she was a professor:

The New York Times obituary now here:

This from The Guardian:

And Evelyn Lamb weighs in here for Scientific American:

And John Baez on Google+:

The wonderful Siobhan Roberts in the New Yorker:

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Fearing the Wrong Things

Sunday reflection from David G. Myers in John Brockman’s volume “Know This”:
“News-feed images can make us excessively fearful of infinitesimal risks. And so we spend an estimated $500 million on anti-terrorism security per U.S. terrorist death but only $10,000 on cancer research per cancer death. As one risk expert explained, ‘If it’s in the news, don’t worry about it. The very definition of news is ‘something that hardly ever happens’…. 
“Media researcher George Gerbner’s cautionary words to a 1981 congressional subcommittee ring true today: ‘Fearful people are more dependent, more easily manipuated and controlled, more susceptible to deceptively simple, strong, tough measures and hard-line postures.’ 
“Ergo, we too often fear the wrong things. And it matters.”

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Read This Sentence.

"This sentence contains ten words, eighteen syllables, and sixty-four letters."

(a Sunday reflection via J. vos Post)