Tag Archives | Mathematics

Vint Cerf On Alan Turing

Photo: Joseph Birr-Pixton (CC)Vint Cerf was one of the main forces behind the creation of the Internet as we know it today. He is accorded elder statesman status, but is in fact still very active in the tech world (currently Google’s “Chief Internet Evangelist”). On the centenary of the birth of an earlier tech revolutionary, Alan Turing, Cerf writes for the BBC that  the mathematician who broke the Nazis’ Enigma code in World War 2 should be a household name:

I’ve worked in computing, and more specifically computer networking, nearly all my life. It’s an industry in a constant state of innovation, always pushing beyond the limits of current capability.

It is sometimes said that “broadband” is whatever network speed you don’t have, yet!

Things we take for granted today were, not that long ago, huge technological breakthroughs.

Although I’ve been lucky enough in my career to be involved in the development of the internet, I’ve never lost sight of the role played by my predecessors, without whose pioneering labour, so much would not have been accomplished.

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Teenager Beats Riddle That Baffled Issac Newton

Newton By William BlakeNot bad. How about showing Americans kids how dumb they are? Via the Herald Sun:

Shouryya Ray is the first person to work out how to calculate exactly the path of a projectile under gravity and subject to air resistance, The (London) Sunday Times reported.

The Indian-born teen said he solved the problem that had stumped mathematicians for centuries while working on a school project.

Shouryya won a research award for his efforts and has been labeled a genius by the German media, but he put it down to “curiosity and schoolboy naivety.”

“When it was explained to us that the problems had no solutions, I thought to myself, ‘well, there’s no harm in trying,'” he said. Shouryya’s family moved to Germany when he was 12 after his engineer father got a job at a technical college. He said his father instilled in him a “hunger for mathematics” and taught him calculus at the age of six.

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Alan Turing Code Papers Released

Turing PlaqueAlan Turing, perhaps the greatest computer scientist ever, famous for breaking the Germans' Enigma code in World War II, wrote two papers on code breaking that have just been released by Britain's spy center, GCHQ. From BBC News:
Two 70-year-old papers by Alan Turing on the theory of code breaking have been released by the government's communications headquarters, GCHQ. It is believed Turing wrote the papers while at Bletchley Park working on breaking German Enigma codes. A GCHQ mathematician said the fact that the contents had been restricted "shows what a tremendous importance it has in the foundations of our subject". It comes amid celebrations to mark the centenary of Turing's birth. The two papers are now available to view at the National Archives at Kew, west London. GCHQ was able to approximately date the papers because in one example Turing had made reference to Hitler's age.
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Why Being Sleepy and Drunk Are Great for Creativity

HSTCreativity can seem like magic ... actually, it's not. Jonah Lehrer writes in the Wired Science:
Here’s a brain teaser: Your task is to move a single line so that the false arithmetic statement below becomes true.

IV = III + III

Did you get it? In this case, the solution is rather obvious – you should move the first “I” to the right side of the “V,” so that the statement now reads: VI = III + III. Not surprisingly, the vast majority of people (92 percent) quickly solve this problem, as it requires a standard problem-solving approach in which only the answer is altered. What’s perhaps a bit more surprising is that nearly 90 percent of patients with brain damage to the prefrontal lobes — this leaves them with severe attentional deficits, unable to control their mental spotlight — are also able to find the answer ...
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This Weekend in Portland, OR: 5th Annual EsoZone Alternative Culture and Thought Festival

EsoZone logo

The fifth annual EsoZone Portland event will be held this weekend at p:ear, Friday evening November 18th and Saturday November 19th (see the website for schedule and location information).

EsoZone is festival celebrating alternative culture and thought. It follows a hybrid unconference/conference model, meaning that in addition to pre-programmed content, participants can propose their own sessions to share their own ideas, projects and skills with the group.

This years presentations include:

  • Tom Henderson, author of the forthcoming book Punk Rock Mathematics, on illusory nature of self.
  • Eric Schiller of Beyond Growth on “digital hipsterism” and the rise of anti-intellectualism in social media.
  • Yoga for Slackers lead by Loren mccRory.
  • Grant Writing for Artists and Other Alien Beings lead by Amanda Sledz.
  • Anarcho-Sewing lead by Jillian Ordes-Finley.

Plus music and performances, and whatever sessions are proposed by this year’s participants.

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Are Fair Voting Systems Mathematically Possible?

voting1To American voters, it’s an all-too familiar dilemma: do you cast your lot with the candidate most likely to win, or risk spoiling the election by supporting the third-party candidate in whom you actually believe? What if, instead of choosing one candidate, voters were instead given the opportunity to rate each potential office-holder, in the same way that Olympic judges score athletes? Brian Dunning at Skeptoid takes an interesting look at the mathematics of voting systems:

In the 1969 film Putney Swope, members of the board of executives were prohibited from voting for themselves, so they all voted for the one board member they were sure nobody else would vote for. Ergo, this free, democratic election produced a chairman that no voter wanted.

In a perfect democracy, everyone gets an equal opportunity to vote, and equal representation. Therefore, we hold elections to let everyone have their say, to either vote representatives into office, or to enact certain laws.

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Mathematicians Reach Breakthrough In HIV Research

Here's a great real world example of why math is important kids! From the Wall Street Journal:
Scientists using a powerful mathematical tool previously applied to the stock market have identified an Achilles heel in HIV that could be a prime target for AIDS vaccines or drugs. The research adds weight to a provocative hypothesis—that an HIV vaccine should avoid a broadside attack and instead home in on a few targets...
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Study Claims Ogling Women Makes Them Worse at Math

Simpsons CuriesI wonder what the first person to win two Nobel prizes, Madame Curie, would make of this study. Oh, I know the answer from a classic Simpsons episode ... Stephanie Pappas writes on LiveScience:
Getting the once-over from a man causes women to score lower on a math test, a new study finds. Despite this drop in performance, women were more motivated to interact with men who ogled them, perhaps because they were trying to boost their sense of belonging, psychologists report in the February issue of the journal Psychology of Women Quarterly. "It creates this vicious cycle for women in which they're underperforming in math or work domains, but they're continuing to want to interact with the person who is making them underperform in the first place," study researcher Sarah Gervais, a psychologist at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, told LiveScience.
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