Column

Math
Euler’s Homework
Even the best and most prolific of mathematicians have had to do homework assignments. Famed Swiss mathematician Leonhard Euler (1707–1783) was no exception. Euler was only 14 years old when he was sent to the University of Basel in 1720 to study for the ministry. Not long after his arrival, he got himself introduced to […]

Math
Sampling for Superclarity
An audio compact disc (CD) holds up to 74 minutes, 33 seconds of music, just enough for a complete recording of Ludwig van Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony on one disc. Each second of music is stored as a string of about 1.5 million bits, represented as tiny, narrow pits on the disc’s surface. These pits range […]

Math
Computers by the Trillions
The notion of using molecules as the working elements of a computer goes back several decades. It wasn’t until 1994, however, that anyone actually stepped into a laboratory and succeeded in solving a computational problem in a test tube. That was when computer scientist Leonard M. Adleman of the University of Southern California, using techniques […]

Math
How Far Away?
As you look around, you constantly make decisions about how far away something is–whether it’s a dog sniffing at a nearby tree or a friend down the street. If you were a surveyor, you could measure angles and then use highschool trigonometry to calculate distances. That’s great for drawing a map or establishing property lines, […]

Math
How Far Away?
As you look around, you constantly make decisions about how far away something is–whether it’s a dog sniffing at a nearby tree or a friend down the street. If you were a surveyor, you could measure angles and then use highschool trigonometry to calculate distances. That’s great for drawing a map or establishing property lines, […]

Math
Guessing Cards
Cardguessing tricks give a magician the opportunity to show off his or her mindreading prowess. In many cases, the illusion of mind reading arises not from sleight of hand but as a consequence of some mathematical principle. One of the most startling of such prediction tricks is known as the Kruskal count, named for Rutgers […]

Math
The Math Hatter and More
Looking for a cool gift for someone mathematically inclined? An unusual, conversationgenerating token of appreciation? The World Wide Web offers a number of intriguing possibilities–if you know where to stop and shop. Metro cars in action. Smart Mouth letter dispenser. Original Stonehenge watch. A little ad in a mathematics newsletter recently alerted me to the […]

Math
The Math Hatter and More
Looking for a cool gift for someone mathematically inclined? An unusual, conversationgenerating token of appreciation? The World Wide Web offers a number of intriguing possibilities–if you know where to stop and shop. Metro cars in action. Smart Mouth letter dispenser. Original Stonehenge watch. A little ad in a mathematics newsletter recently alerted me to the […]

Math
Canary Songs
All it takes to sing like a canary is good breath and muscle control. Simply by manipulating air pressure and muscle tension in its vocal organ, or syrinx, a canary can generate an amazingly varied repertoire of trills, warbles, and other melodic syllables. This insight comes from a novel mathematical model of sound production in […]

Math
Canary Songs
All it takes to sing like a canary is good breath and muscle control. Simply by manipulating air pressure and muscle tension in its vocal organ, or syrinx, a canary can generate an amazingly varied repertoire of trills, warbles, and other melodic syllables. This insight comes from a novel mathematical model of sound production in […]

Math
Online Bidding Tips
The auction Web site known as eBay has become a vast marketplace, bringing together buyers and sellers of all sorts of goods. It has also become a handy laboratory for testing ideas in economics about markets and prices. In general, auctions ought to serve as an efficient mechanism for setting prices. Consequently, you would expect […]

Math
Online Bidding Tips
The auction Web site known as eBay has become a vast marketplace, bringing together buyers and sellers of all sorts of goods. It has also become a handy laboratory for testing ideas in economics about markets and prices. In general, auctions ought to serve as an efficient mechanism for setting prices. Consequently, you would expect […]