The Year in Mathematical Ideas

I have a short piece about Tim Gowers’ Polymath project in the 2009 edition of the New York Times Year in Ideas feature.

In January, Timothy Gowers, a professor of mathematics at Cambridge and a holder of the Fields Medal, math’s highest honor, decided to see if the comment section of his blog could prove a theorem he could not.

It’s been years since we’ve been New York Times subscribers; looking at Sunday’s paper I was struck by how much math was in it. In the Year in Ideas section, besides my piece, there’s one about using random walks to identify species critical to the survival of an ecosystem, another about the differential equations governing zombie diffusion, and a third about Nate Silver’s detective work on the fishy final digits of poll results.  (I blogged about DigitGate a few months back.)  Elsewhere in the paper, John Allen Paulos writes about the expected value of early breast cancer screening, and the Book Review takes on Perfect Rigor, Masha Gessen’s new biography of Perelman.  Personally, I think Gessen missed a huge commercial opportunity by not titling the book He’s Just Not That Into Yau.

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3 thoughts on “The Year in Mathematical Ideas

  1. Harrison says:

    When I read the Polymath piece, I was sort of amazed by the mathematical and historical accuracy, until I saw the byline…

    I would completely, unashamedly buy a copy of any book with that title.

  2. Em says:

    Nice to see JSE in the NYT!

  3. Xander Faber says:

    Great piece in the NYT! I’ve been a fan of large-scale mathematics collaboration since the AIM workshop on Arithmetic Dynamics in 2008. Perhaps one could combine the AIM and Polymath models into a workgroup Wiki leading up to and away from an intense research workshop. The Arizona Winter School already does something like this on a smaller scale.

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