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Shameless Self Promotion #3

Hi everyone,

A while back I was asked to contribute an essay to a book on mathematics and popular culture. I’m pleased to announce that this book is now available for purchase! There are some great essays in this book – I’ll let you decide how mine stacks up with the rest – and it also features a foreword by Keith Devlin, a Stanford University mathematician who you may know as NPR’s Math Guy.

I suggested they use my face instead, but they respectfully declined.

The price of entry is a little steep ($45), but if you’re someone interested in buying many copies (maybe you are a teacher, or maybe you just have a huge crush on David Krumholtz), I can get you a discount on bulk orders.

To whet your appetite, the title of my essay is Counting with the Sharks: Math-Savvy Gamblers in Popular Culture. Here’s the . . . → Read More: Shameless Self Promotion #3

Happy Birthday, Riemann Hypothesis!

Big ups to Liz Landau for bringing attention to one of the most important unsolved math problems of our time, the Riemann Hypothesis. Over at the CNN SciTechBlog, she has written a nice article on the problem aimed at a general audience. This year marks the 150th anniversary of the publication of Riemann’s manuscript, where he proposed the now famous conjecture on the zeros of the Riemann-zeta function, and November was the month in which it was published. However, as Landau points out, the exact date of publication isn’t known, which makes having a birthday celebration a little tricky. The American Institute of Mathematics picked today to celebrate, and in honor of Riemann talks were held all around the world.

The Riemann Hypothesis has held the attention of the mathematical community for a century and a half, but it’s also made occasional forays into the realm of popular culture. For . . . → Read More: Happy Birthday, Riemann Hypothesis!

Numb3rs in Real Life

For those who don’t believe we can actually use math to fight crime, the story of Harry Markopolos, the man who blew the whistle on Bernie Madoff, shows that a dream of using math to catch criminals need not be untenable. In a recent interview for 60 Minutes, Mr. Markopolos describes how he harnessed the power of mathematics to discover that whatever Mr. Madoff was doing, it had to be illegal.

Bernie’s luck was bound to run out sooner or later, as he must’ve known. His seeming success was really nothing more than a giant Ponzi scheme – in other words, he was able to pay his investors amazing returns by taking money from new investors, rather than by creating new wealth. It doesn’t take a mathematician to realize that such a plan is unsustainable, since the more successful your scheme becomes, the more new investors you require in . . . → Read More: Numb3rs in Real Life