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The kilogram just got a revamp. A unit of time might be next
The new kilogram has finally arrived.
Updates to scientists’ system of measurement went into force May 20, redefining the kilogram and several other units in the metric system. The revamp does away with some outdated standards — most notably, a metal cylinder kept in a vault near Paris that has defined the kilogram for 130 years (SN: 12/8/18, p. 7).
Tinkering with units allows...

Reviews & Previews
A mathematician traces his journey from poverty to prominence
The Shape of a LifeShingTung Yau and Steve NadisYale Univ., $28
One of the first remarkable things that mathematician ShingTung Yau reveals in his memoir, The Shape of a Life, is that his name was not originally Yau. His family fled China to Britishruled Hong Kong in 1949 when he was an infant, and the name Yau came from a mistranslation on a registration form when he entered...

News
Mathematicians may have found the fastest way to multiply huge numbers
Multiplying 2 x 2 is easy. But multiplying two numbers with more than a billion digits each — that takes some serious computation.
The multiplication technique taught in grade school may be simple, but for really big numbers, it’s too slow to be useful. Now, two mathematicians say that they’ve found the fastest way yet to multiply extremely large figures.
The duo claim to have...

News
Photons reveal a weird effect called the quantum pigeonhole paradox
Quantum pigeons don’t like to share.
In keeping with a mathematical concept known as the pigeonhole principle, roosting pigeons have to cram together if there are more pigeons than spots available, with some birds sharing holes. But photons, or quantum particles of light, can violate that rule, according to an experiment reported in the Jan. 29 Proceedings of the National Academy of...

Letters to the Editor
Readers have questions about Parkinson’s disease, moth wings and more
Gut connection01/27/2019  07:15 Health, Animals, NumbersAbnormal proteins tied to Parkinson’s disease may form in the gut before traveling through the body’s nervous system to the brain, Laura Beil reported in “A gutbrain link for Parkinson’s gets a closer look” (SN: 12/8/18, p. 22).
The vagus nerve offers a connection between nerves in the gut and those in the brain. Beil reported on one study that showed that people who...

News
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...