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  • Feature

    Pushing the Limit

    When SMART-1, the European Space Agency's first mission to the moon, launched in September 2003, astronomers hailed it as the testing ground for a revolutionary and efficient solar-electric-propulsion technology. While this technological leap absorbed the attention of scientists and the news media, a second, quieter revolution aboard SMART-1 went almost unheralded. Only a small band of...

    11/01/2005 - 11:28 Numbers
  • Feature

    Drama in Numbers

    As the curtain rises, an illuminated mathematical expression dominates the scene. "Do you see that theorem?" the narrator asks. "In 1637, Pierre de Fermat . . . wrote it down in the margin of a book. Then he added this tantalizing note." A spotlight suddenly reveals a bearded, bewigged, flashily dressed Fermat, who promptly sings,

    "I have discovered a truly...

    12/16/2002 - 13:38 Numbers
  • Feature

    The Power of Partitions

    Just a year before his death in 1920 at the age of 32, mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan came upon a remarkable pattern in a special list of whole numbers.

    The list represented counts of how many ways a given whole number can be expressed as a sum of positive integers. For example, 4 can be written as 3 + 1, 2 + 2, 2 + 1 + 1, and 1 + 1 + 1 + 1. Including 4 itself but...

    12/13/2002 - 15:52 Numbers