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Math Trek
Florence Nightingale: The passionate statistician
When Florence Nightingale arrived at a British hospital in Turkey during the Crimean War, she found a nightmare of misery and chaos. Men lay crowded next to each other in endless corridors. The air reeked from the cesspool that lay just beneath the hospital floor. There was little food and fewer basic supplies.
By the time Nightingale left Turkey after the war ended in...

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Less is more
What’s true for jealous lovers and frustrated parents also applies to nanoscale cogs and wheels and environmental regulations: Cutting some slack sometimes gives better results than being too strict.
Giovanni Volpe, a physicist at the Institute for Photonic Sciences in Barcelona, and his colleagues took a fresh look at the mathematics of constraints — specifically, of “noisy”...

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Gödel, Escher, Chopin
Familiar relationships between sets of musical notes, such as transposition between chords, directly translate into geometrical structures such as this Möbius strip — where each dot represents a whole class of equivalent twonote chords — or into more complex structures with many dimensions.
Composers have an understanding of these geometries without realizing it, says...

Math Trek
The Noisy Game of Baseball
Halfway through the 2005 baseball season, John Olerud was having a great year with the Boston Red Sox. His batting average was .405, far better than that of most players. If someone had offered to wager with you on what his batting average would be for the rest of the season, what would you have bet?
It might seem like .405 would make sense, the same as the first half of the...

Math Trek
Creeping Up on Riemann
Prime numbers are maddeningly capricious. They clump together like buddies on some regions of the number line, but in other areas, nary a prime can be found. So number theorists can't even roughly predict where the next prime will occur. The distribution of primes is the great motivating question of number theory.
Prime numbers are like the atoms of...