John Horton Conway is a great mathematician, certainly one of the greatest living mathematicians. Polymathematical in his mathematical interests (game theory, geometry, group theory, topology and more, not to mention the Game of Life), he's also one of the most eccentric, and that's saying a lot in a field where Cedric Villani is prime eccentricity competition.
As one can imagine, the biographer of an oddball character like Conway faces certain ... challenges ... that most biographers don't face. Memory, obstinacy, whimsy, the whole nine yards.
So it pleases me to say that Siobhan Roberts'…

# Mathematics

During the holiday season, Kim, Liz and I are taking a short break from blogging. We are posting some of our favorite posts from the past year. Here’s one of them, originally posted on May 27, 2015:
by Kim Krisberg
For more than a decade, biologist Mariam Barlow has been working on the theory that administering antibiotics on a rotating basis could be a solution to antibiotic resistance. After years of research, Barlow had lots of data, but she needed a more precise way to make sense of it all — something that was so specific it could easily be used to treat patients. So, she joined forces…

Cédric Villani's Birth of a Theorem: A Mathematical Adventure has risen to the top of my Best Science Book of 2015 list. It'll be tough for another book to kick it off that summit before the end of the year, that's for sure.
The name Cédric Villani probably sounds a bit familiar to most who follow the science world reasonably closely. That's because he's the spider-pendant wearing, cravat and three-piece suit porting, Fields Medal winning French mathematician who's currently the director of the Institut Henri Poincaré in Paris. He's known in math circles for his work on nonlinear Landau…

Analyzing online searches and social media activity has often been suggested as a way to track and maybe even predict the spread of diseases. And it’s a great idea — if it’s done right, it could offer public health workers real-time surveillance and a jumpstart at containing dangerous outbreaks. But there’s a hitch. How can we attempt to decipher between online activity triggered by the possibility of actual disease symptoms and online activity triggered by simple curiosity?
That was the question Sherry Towers and her colleagues set out to answer. At the very least, they wanted to gain some…

For more than a decade, biologist Mariam Barlow has been working on the theory that administering antibiotics on a rotating basis could be a solution to antibiotic resistance. After years of research, Barlow had lots of data, but she needed a more precise way to make sense of it all — something that was so specific it could easily be used to treat patients. So, she joined forces with a team of mathematicians. And the amazing results could help solve an enormous, worldwide problem.
In a nutshell, the team of biologists and mathematicians developed a software program that generates a road map…

This Nifty Fifty Podcast features, Dr. Tristan Hübsch, Physicist and Mathematician from Howard University, speaking to Immanuel Christian School about the “Theory of Everything” and how he got interested in Physics from a very early age. Read the full blog here.

Colin Adams's Zombies & Calculus is one of the coolest, funniest, most creative science books I've read in a very long time.
What's interesting about that statement is that we're not talking a non-fiction book here. We're talking a novel. Yes, a novel. Zombies & Calculus is pure fiction. Fortunately. Now I'm a big fan of the Walking Dead tv show and the comics too (though I'm a bit behind on the trade paperback collections) so I"m quite glad it's fiction. Basically, the premise of this novel is, "What if Rick Grimes had been a university math prof instead of a police officer."
The…

The ‘Nifty Fifty (times 4)’, a program of Science Spark, presented by InfoComm International, are a group of 200 noted science and engineering professionals who will fan out across the Washington, D.C. area in the 2014-2015 school year to speak about their work and careers at various middle and high schools.
Meet Nifty Fifty Speaker Dr. Tim Chartier
As a mathematician and researcher par excellence specializing in numerical linear algebra, Tim Chartier, Associate Professor in the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science at Davidson College, is known for pushing the boundaries of…

The USA Science & Engineering Festival is proud to announce the return of Lockheed Martin as its 2016 Founding and Presenting Host and expanded outreach activities to engage our nation's youth in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).
"The USA Science & Engineering Festival provides an essential introduction and gateway to the exciting world of STEM," said Dr. Ray O. Johnson, Lockheed Martin senior vice president and chief technology officer. "It's an exhilarating event not only for the students, but also for the parents, teachers, and professionals like me to get hands-on…

It is difficult to grasp the magnitude of what was accomplished not only this past weekend, but also the entire two years leading up to the 3rd USA Science & Engineering Festival. The official numbers from the Washington D.C. Convention Center reveal that over 325,000 attendees visited our Nation's Capital to partake in the largest celebration of STEM or as we have dubbed it- the Superbowl of STEM! In addition to our Expo Finale weekend, we reached over 180,000 students and teachers with our STEM initiative programs including our Nifty Fifty and X-STEM School Programs.
Numbers of course…

York University mathematician and civil rights activist Lee Lorch died February 28, 2014 at the age of 98.
A few years ago I posted on the 2007 Joint Mathematics Meetings in New Orleans Lee Lorch where Lee was awarded the Yueh-Gin Gung and Charles Y. Hu Award for Distinguished Service to Mathematics.
The citation read:
Lee Lorch's mathematical research has been in the areas of analysis, differential equations, and special functions. His teaching positions have included the City College of New York, Pennsylvania State University, Fisk University, Philander Smith College, the University of…

This past June, more than 2,000 business, government, and education leaders gathered in Austin, Texas, to discuss the state of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education in the United States at the U.S. News STEM Solutions National Conference. The USA Science & Engineering Festival was honored to attend and we are looking forward to our partnership for the 2014 National Conference this coming April.
"This is the absolutely perfect time to be talking about STEM education," explained Barbara Bolin, executive director of the Michigan STEM partnership. "Because STEM…

Ronald Mickens -- Research Physicist and Mathematician
Ronald Mickens is a leading authority on oscillations (repetitive, vibrating motions that occur in cycles), and in developing mathematical models for predicting the spread of disease. He has been recognized as an expert on the history of African Americans in science and mathematics.
Although he is now a respected researcher and educator, Ronald Mickens can remember as a child being constantly in trouble at home because of his curious, active mind for dangerous scientific experiments. This includes conducting experiments with caustic…

There are two kinds of children's books: those that are aimed primarily at the kids themselves and those that are aimed at the adults that actually shell out the cash to pay for the books. There's certainly a lot of overlap -- books that kids love but that also catch the eyes, hearts & minds and wallets of the adults doing the shopping. But wander the aisles of your local bookstore and you'll see what I mean. Often beautifully illustrated, with a sophisticated artistic touch and a mature and serious topic, you can tell the books that are aimed at the parents and uncles and cousins and…

Save the date: the USA Science & Engineering Festival Expo is just one year away! We are so excited to bring you the largest celebration of science & engineering for the 3rd time! Leading up to the Expo we will have affiliate events, the return of the Nifty Fifty (x3), contests, and school programs! The Festival week will kick off with the U.S. News STEM Solutions Conference, the launch of X-STEM Extreme STEM Symposium (Thursday, April 24) and Sneak Peek Friday (April 25)! The free and open to the public finale Expo will be the weekend of April 26-27, 2014!
The spotlight on STEM (…

I am slowly working on an article for Skeptical Inquirer about the ways in which religious apologists use mathematical arguments in their rhetoric. Among these arguments are the familiar creationist claims about probability and information theory, but there is also a family of arguments based on the effectiveness of mathematics itself. The basic argument is that mathematics is so useful for describing the world solely because God, in his benevolence, designed the world to be describable in that way. They will often cite Eugene Wigner's 1960 article “The Unreasonable Effectiveness of…

I have a guest post up over at the blog of Oxford University Press, discussing a few amusing tidbits from set theory. The post was inspired by this earlier post, in which I mentioned the bizarre criticism of set theory served up by a publisher of Christian home schooling materials.
In my new post I discuss Russell's paradox, another classic paradox whose name I do not know. and finish with a set-theory-based “proof” that all counting numbers are interesting. (More precisely, I show that the set of boring counting numbers is empty.) Enjoy!

Well, it looks like I have my next book project lined up! This one's a bit of a departure for me, since I will be an editor this time as opposed to an author. I will be editing a tribute volume to Raymond Smullyan, to be published by Dover Publications probably sometime next year.
I've mentioned Smullyan a few times in this blog. He's probably best known for his many books of logic puzzles. He did not invent the genre of puzzles about liars and truthtellers, but he certainly elevated it to a high art. He is also well-known for using puzzles as a device for communicating deep ideas in…

Mathematician Tanya Khovanova has just posted a review of the Big Sudoku Book. She writes:
I received the book Taking Sudoku Seriously by by Jason Rosenhouse and Laura Taalman for review and put it aside to collect some dust. You see, I have solved too many Sudokus in my life. The idea of solving another one made me barf. Besides, I thought I knew all there is to know about the mathematics of Sudoku.
One day out of politeness or guilt I opened the book — and couldn’t stop reading.
The book is written for people who like Sudoku, but hate math. This is so strange. Sudoku is math. People who…

An amusing tidbit, from HuffPo:
The U.S. population has reached a nerdy and delightful milestone.
Shortly after 2:29 p.m. on Tuesday, August 14, 2012, the U.S. population was exactly 314,159,265, or pi (π) times 100 million, the U.S. Census Bureau reports. The U.S. Census Bureau's Population Clock projects the real-time size of the U.S. population based on monthly population estimates.