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It’s official: We’re redefining the kilogram
Out with the old — kilogram, that is.
Scientists will soon ditch a specialized hunk of metal that defines the mass of a kilogram. Oddly enough, every measurement of mass made anywhere on Earth is tied back to this one cylindrical object. Known as “Le Grand K,” the cylinder, cast in 1879, is kept carefully sequestered in a secure, controlled environment outside Paris.
On November 16...

Context
Before his early death, Riemann freed geometry from Euclidean prejudices
Bernhard Riemann was a man with a hypothesis.
He was confident that it was true, probably. But he didn’t prove it. And attempts over the last century and a half by others to prove it have failed.
A new claim by the esteemed mathematician Michael Atiyah that Riemann’s hypothesis has now been proved may also be exaggerated. But sadly Riemann’s early death was not. He died at age 39....

Feature
Anshumali Shrivastava uses AI to wrangle torrents of data
Anshumali Shrivastava, 33Computer ScienceRice University09/26/2018  08:28 Artificial Intelligence, Numbers, TechnologyThe world is awash in data, and Anshumali Shrivastava may save us from drowning in it.
Every day, over 1 billion photos are posted online. In a single second, the Large Hadron Collider can churn out a million gigabytes of observations. Big data is ballooning faster than current computer programs can analyze it.
“We have...

News
Here’s why we care about attempts to prove the Riemann hypothesis
A famed mathematical enigma is once again in the spotlight.
The Riemann hypothesis, posited in 1859 by German mathematician Bernhard Riemann, is one of the biggest unsolved puzzles in mathematics. The hypothesis, which could unlock the mysteries of prime numbers, has never been proved. But mathematicians are buzzing about a new attempt.
Esteemed mathematician Michael Atiyah took a...

Reviews & Previews
The study of human heredity got its start in insane asylums
Genetics in the MadhouseTheodore M. PorterPrinceton Univ., $35
England’s King George III descended into mental chaos, or what at the time was called madness, in 1789. Physicians could not say whether he would recover or if a replacement should assume the throne. That political crisis jumpstarted the study of human heredity.
Using archival records, science historian Theodore M...

Soapbox
Real numbers don’t cut it in the real world, this physicist argues
You would be forgiven for thinking that real numbers are, in fact, real — the word is right there in the name. But physicist Nicolas Gisin doesn’t think so.
He’s not questioning the mathematical concept of a real number. The term refers to a number that isn’t imaginary: It has no factor of i, the square root of negative one. Instead, Gisin, of the University of Geneva, debates the...

Reviews & Previews
‘Weird Math’ aims to connect numbers and equations to the real world
Weird MathDavid Darling and Agnijo BanerjeeBasic Books, $27
Weird Math sets out to “reveal the strange connections between math and everyday life.” The book fulfills that laudable goal, in part. At times, teenage math prodigy Agnijo Banerjee and his tutor, science writer David Darling, find ways to make complex math relatable, like linking chaos theory to weather forecasting and...

Science & the Public
Forget Pi Day. We should be celebrating Tau Day
As a physics reporter and lover of mathematics, I won’t be celebrating Pi Day this year. That’s because pi is wrong.
I don’t mean that the value is incorrect. Pi, known by the symbol π, is the number you get when you divide a circle’s circumference by its diameter: 3.14159… and so on without end. But, as some mathematicians have argued, the mathematical constant was poorly chosen, and...

Science Ticker
The largest known prime number has 23 millionplus digits
There’s a new largest known prime number in town, with a whopping 23,249,425 digits. The figure is calculated by multiplying 2 by itself 77,232,917 times and then subtracting 1. Announced on January 3, the number is almost a million digits longer than the last recordbreaking prime.
A prime number can’t be divided by anything other than 1 and itself. If you started counting at 1, you’d...

Reviews & Previews
New physics books don’t censor the math behind reality
Many books about science are meant to be pleasure reading. Such books attempt to convey the wonder and fascination and excitement of science, and ideally some of the substance as well. After all, good popular science writing is not only engaging and entertaining, but also informative. But even very informative popular books are not designed to be fully educational about the science in...