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Feature
Pushing the Limit
When SMART1, 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 solarelectricpropulsion technology. While this technological leap absorbed the attention of scientists and the news media, a second, quieter revolution aboard SMART1 went almost unheralded. Only a small band of...

Feature
Calculating Swarms
The frenetic scurrying of ants around a nest may seem like much ado about nothing. There's method in their madness, however.
All this activity adds up to ingenious strategies for collectively working out the shortest path to a food source, combining forces to move a large, unwieldy object, and performing other functions crucial to an ant colony's well...

Math Trek
Square of the Hypotenuse
There's a delightful mathematical moment in the movie Merry Andrew, when Danny Kaye, playing schoolmaster Andrew Larabee, breaks into song to teach the Pythagorean theorem.
I was reminded of this scene by a sentence in an article about the Pythagorean theorem in the October issue of Mathematics Magazine. The Pythagorean theorem "is probably the only nontrivial...

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...

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...

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...

Math Trek
Whips and Dinosaur Tails
The loud crack of a deftly flicked bullwhip can certainly command attention. That distinctive noise is a small sonic boom, generated when the whip's thin, highly flexible tip exceeds the speed of sound.
Swinging a leather bullwhip's thick, rigid handle in an arc gives the whip angular momentum. Sharply reversing the motion's direction sends a wave down the whip. As the wave travels...

News
Searchers capture a champion megaprime
A participant in the Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search (GIMPS) has identified the largest prime number yet. When printed out, its digits would fill more than 450 pages of Science News.
Discovered by 20yearold Michael Cameron of Owen Sound, Ontario, the new champion prime is 213,466,917 – 1, which runs to 4,053,946 decimal digits.
A prime is a whole number evenly divisible by...