A Random Walk through the English Language

How a dispute between a religious believer and a confirmed atheist led to a major mathematical breakthrough

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The Top Unsolved Questions in Mathematics Remain Mostly Mysterious

Just one of the seven Millennium Prize Problems named 21 years ago has been solved

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For Math Fans: Some Puzzles from Game of Life Creator John Conway

The great British mathematician passed away from COVID-19 last year. To celebrate his memory, here is a small sampling of the recreational mathematics he loved so well

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The Art of Mathematics in Chalk

A photography project reveals the allure of equations in mathematicians’ blackboard work

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Math Can Help Build a Global Digital Community

During the pandemic, the National Museum of Mathematics found new ways to build human connections

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The Mathematics of How Connections Become Global

Percolation theory illuminates the behavior of many kinds of networks, from cell-phone connections to disease transmission

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How does the brain interpret computer languages?

Image of a pillar covered in lit ones and zeroes.

Enlarge (credit: Barcroft Media / Getty Images)

In the US, a 2016 Gallup poll found that the majority of schools want to start teaching code, with 66 percent of K-12 school principals thinking that computer science learning should be incorporated into other subjects. Most countries in Europe have added coding classes and computer science to their school curricula, with France and Spain introducing theirs in 2015. This new generation of coders is expected to boost the worldwide developer population from 23.9 million in 2019 to 28.7 million in 2024.

Despite all this effort, there’s still some confusion on how to teach coding. Is it more like a language, or more like math? Some new research may have settled this question by watching the brain’s activity while subjects read Python code.

Two schools on schooling

Right now, there are two schools of thought. The prevailing one is that coding is a type of language, with its own grammar rules and syntax that must be followed. After all, they’re called coding languages for a reason, right? This idea even has its own snazzy acronym: Coding as Another Language, or CAL.

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Quantum Mechanics, Free Will and the Game of Life

Some thoughts triggered by the death of the mathematician John Conway

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The Timeless Journey of the Möbius Strip

After the disaster of 2020, let’s hope we’re not on a figurative one

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Is the Schrödinger Equation True?

Just because a mathematical formula works does not mean it reflects reality

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Doing the Touchy Math on Who Should Get a COVID Vaccine First

Mathematicians model pandemic scenarios by plugging thorny ethical and logistical issues into calculations

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Divide and Conquer Could Be Good COVID Strategy

COVID might be fought efficiently with fewer shutdowns by restricting activities only in a particular area with a population up to 200,000 when its case rate rises above a chosen threshold.  

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Melting Candy Gives Mathematicians Insight into How Some Landscapes Form

Researchers dissolved a sugary treat underwater to understand the origin of spiky rock forests

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Dissolving Candy Gives Mathematicians Insight into How Some Landscapes Form

Researchers observed a sugary treat underwater to understand the origin of spiky rock forests

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For Math Fans: A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Number 42

Here is how a perfectly ordinary number captured the interest of sci-fi enthusiasts, geeks and mathematicians

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Can an Algorithm Help Solve Political Paralysis?

As faith in government hits historic lows, organizers in the U.K. are trying a new math-based approach to democracy. Would it work in the bitterly divided U.S?

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Algorithm Aids Search for Those Lost at Sea

A new process pinpoints ocean “attractors” to find missing travelers

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How Many Aliens Are in the Milky Way? Astronomers Turn to Statistics for Answers

The tenets of Thomas Bayes, an 18th-century statistician and minister, underpin the latest estimates of the prevalence of extraterrestrial life

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The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle of Social Science Modeling

It’s known as the "curse of dimensionality," and it’s why our estimates of how a disease will behave will always have imprecision

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Multistate Disagreement over the Length of the Foot to End

In 2023 every U.S. land surveyor will begin using a single international standard

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Small Numbers Can Have Huge Impacts on Climate and Health

A number can be tiny in relative terms but hugely important nonetheless

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How Small Is Small?

A number can be tiny in relative terms but hugely important nonetheless

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Coronavirus Antibody Tests Have a Mathematical Pitfall

The accuracy of screening tests is highly dependent on the infection rate

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Diana Davis’s Beautiful Pentagons

This mathematician turns her research into fashion and toys

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Pi in the Sky: General Relativity Passes the Ratio’s Test

Using gravitational waves to approximate pi, physicists see no problem with Einstein’s theory

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Geometry Points to Coronavirus Drug Target Candidates

A new mathematical model predicts areas on a virus that might be especially vulnerable to disabling treatments

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The Monster That Expands Our Mathematical Imaginations

Ben Orlin shares his favorite fractal curve

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Discovering Joyful Math Away from the Classroom

Here are resources for students, parents and other learners

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Prime Factorization as Verse

Creating poetry with the fundamental theorem of arithmetic

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The Theorem That Applies to Everything from Search Algorithms to Epidemiology

Perron-Frobenius theorem and linear algebra have many virtues to extol

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Remembering Mathematical Magician John Conway

His creative and influential ideas spilled over into quantum physics, philosophy and computer science

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Not Just Fun and Games

Best known for inventing the game of Life, John H. Conway is adept at finding the theorems hidden in simple puzzles

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John Conway, inventor of the Game of Life, has died of COVID-19

Photograph of a bearded man next to a window.

Enlarge / John Conway. (credit: Thane Plambeck)

COVID-19 has claimed the life of Princeton mathematician John Conway, his colleague Sam Wang confirmed on Twitter on Saturday. He was 82 years old.

The British-born Conway spent the early part of his career at Cambridge before moving to Princeton University in the 1980s. He made contributions in various areas of mathematics but is best known for his invention of Conway’s Game of Life, a cellular automata in which simple rules give rise to surprisingly complex behaviors. It was made famous by a 1970 Scientific American article and has had a lively community around it ever since then. (Don’t confuse it with Milton Bradley’s board game of the same name.)

Conway’s Game of Life is played on a two-dimensional plane with square cells. Each square can be either black (“alive”) or white (“dead”). Simple deterministic rules dictate how the state of the board in one step leads to the next step. If a live square has two or three live neighbors (counting diagonals), it stays alive. If a dead cell has three live neighbors, it switches to black and becomes alive. Otherwise, the cell becomes—or stays—dead.

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Mathematical Proof That Rocked Number Theory Will Be Published

But some experts say author Shinichi Mochizuki failed to fix fatal flaw in the solution of a major arithmetics problem

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Exponential Infection Increases Are Deadly Serious

Listen in as I use two calculators to track the difference in numbers of infections over a short period of time depending on how many people each infected individual on average infects.

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The Very Special Triangles

A recent paper uncovers a unique pair of shapes

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An Inclusive Vision of Math

Francis Su’s book Mathematics for Human Flourishing is both an invitation and a challenge 

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Katherine Johnson of Hidden Figures Fame Dies at 101

The pioneering NASA mathematician overcame racial barriers to help humans reach the moon

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Computation in Service of Poetry

An algorithm calculates powers of 2 from a classical Sanskrit math text

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