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  • News

    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 two-note chords — or into more complex structures with many dimensions. Composers have an understanding of these geometries without realizing it, says music theorist Dmitri...
    05/05/2008 - 17:28 Physics
  • News

    Tiptoe acrobats get it just right

    If walking on water takes grace, jumping on it requires exquisite care.Water striders spend most of their lives on a water surface, typically that of a pond. Microscopic hairs, coated with a waxy substance, make the striders' long legs extremely water-repellent, enabling the bugs to rest on water as if the surface were a rubber membrane.As the name implies, water striders are also accomplished...
    12/26/2007 - 14:36 Physics
  • Feature

    Tied Up in Knots

    Knotted threads secure buttons to shirts. Knots in ropes attach boats to piers. You can find knots in shoestrings, ties, ribbons, and bows. But even without Boy Scouts or sailors, knots would be everywhere.Call it Murphy's Law of knots: If something can get tangled up, it will. "Anything that's long and flexible seems to somehow end up knotted," says Andrew Belmonte, an applied mathematician at...
    12/14/2007 - 12:35 Numbers
  • News

    Check on Checkers: In perfect game, there's no winner

    Computers can now play a flawless game of checkers. A calculation that began almost 2 decades ago shows that if both players make perfect moves, the game will be a draw every time. The achievement makes checkers the most complicated game to have been solved completely.Computers have been able to beat people at checkers since 1994, when a program called Chinook won the checkers world championship...
    07/18/2007 - 14:18 Computing
  • Feature

    Mathematical Lives of Plants

    The seeds of a sunflower, the spines of a cactus, and the bracts of a pinecone all form whirling spiral patterns. Remarkable for their regularity and beauty, these natural structures also show some surprising mathematical properties.In more than 90 percent of the spiral formations made by plants, the angle between successive elements of the spiral—the leaves on a stem, for example—is...
    07/13/2007 - 09:42 Numbers
  • Feature

    Games Theory

    I'm online wrapped up on the ESP Game, and I'm finding it hard to stop. As each round ends, I'm eager to try again to rack up points. The game randomly pairs players who have logged on to the game's Web site ( Both players see the same image, selected from a large database, but they can't communicate directly. Each player...
    03/13/2007 - 11:10 Computing
  • Feature

    Fractal or Fake?

    Jackson Pollock couldn't possibly have been thinking of fractals when he started flinging and dripping paint from a stick onto canvas. After all, mathematicians didn't develop the idea of a fractal until a couple of decades later. But if one physicist is right, Pollock ended up painting fractals anyway. And that mathematical quality may explain why Pollock's seemingly chaotic streams of paint...
    02/20/2007 - 10:14 Humans & Society
  • Feature

    Science News of the Year 2004

    A Spectrum of ChoicesIn the Web page below, the writers of Science News have selected what they consider the most compelling stories of 2004. However, visitors to our Web pages at Science News Online have their own favorites. As we track the number of visitors to each Web page, we learn which articles attract the most interest.We can also peek into the minds of the next...
    12/15/2004 - 16:09 Humans & Society
  • News

    Top of the Top 40: Search tool for a cancer cure places first in national science competition

    Inspired by his grandmother's battle with cancer, Herbert Mason Hedberg developed a new test that could rapidly identify tumor-fighting compounds. Remarkably, he accomplished this as a high school science project.Hedberg, 17, of North Attleboro High School in Massachusetts claimed the top prize—a $100,000 scholarship—in this year's Intel Science Talent Search. At an awards banquet in Washington...
    03/17/2004 - 10:42 Humans & Society
  • Feature

    Science News of the Year 2003

    Fighting off the virusesA couple of decades ago, if someone had asked whether you'd heard about "that new virus," you'd have know that they were concerned about a health threat. This year, you'd have needed to ask, "Medical or computer?" On both viral fronts, 2003 was eventful. A new viral disease emerged in China, and travelers spread it around the globe. A series of novel viruses and other...
    12/16/2003 - 12:27 Humans & Society