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Math Trek
Winning the World Series with math
To run the bases faster, baseball players just need a bit of mathematics, according to research by an undergraduate math major and his professors. Their calculations show that the optimal path around the bases is one that perhaps no majorleague ball player has ever run: It swings out a full 18.5 feet from the baseline.
The precise path the researchers calculated probably won’t...

Math Trek
SpoilProofing Elections
When Ralph Nader recently announced he was entering the 2008 presidential race, many Democrats groaned. It was his fault, they say, that George Bush defeated Al Gore in 2000. But Nader retorted that the Democratic Party has only itself to blame for the loss in 2000.
Mathematicians offer a different perspective. The problem, they say, doesn't lie with Nader or with the Democrats. It lies...

Math Trek
Checking It Twice
Counting is hard. Neither people nor machines seem to be able to do it reliably. And that's a nightmare for election officials who need an accurate ballot count to decide elections.
Eighteen states require officials to doublecheck the machine counts by hand for a portion of the ballots. But election officials have had little guidance on what to do with the recount results. If the...

News
Primal Progress: Pattern hunters spy order among prime numbers
Mathematicians have taken a step forward in understanding patterns within the primes, numbers divisible only by 1 and themselves. According to the new work, the population of prime numbers contains an infinite collection of arithmetic progressions—number sequences in which each term differs from the preceding one by the same fixed amount.
For example, in the sequence 3, 5, 7, each prime...

Feature
Math Lab
Many people regard mathematics as the crown jewel of the sciences. Yet math has historically lacked one of the defining trappings of science: laboratory equipment. Physicists have their particle accelerators; biologists, their electron microscopes; and astronomers, their telescopes. Mathematics, by contrast, concerns not the physical landscape but an idealized, abstract world. For exploring...

Feature
Great Computations
Computers at home or in the office often sit idle for minutes, hours, or days at a time. The Internet now allows researchers to take advantage of this enormous reservoir of unused computer power.
More than 1.6 million people have downloaded software to sift through signals collected by the Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico as part of a search for signs of intelligent...

Math Trek
Jazzing Up Euclid's Algorithm
Earlier this year, the journal Computing in Science & Engineering (CISE) published a list of the top 10 algorithms of the century (see http://computer.org/cise/articles/Top_Algorithms.htm).
"Computational algorithms are probably as old as civilization," Francis Sullivan of the Institute for Defense Analyses' Center for Computing Sciences in Bowie, Md. noted in an editorial in the...

Feature
Pi à la Mode
Memorizing the digits of pi–the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter–presents a hefty challenge to anyone undertaking that quixotic exercise. Starting with 3.14159265, the decimal digits of pi run on forever, and there is no discernible pattern to ease the task.
The apparent randomness of pi's digits has long intrigued mathematician David H. Bailey of the...

Feature
Pitching Science
The pitcher's action up to the release of the ball is part of the art of pitching; the action of the ball after release . . . is addressed by physics.
–Robert K. Adair,
The Physics of Baseball, 1994
Even in baseball, there's pure science and there's applied science. Mechanical engineer LeRoy W. Alaways has been pursuing a bit of both.
On the one hand, he and his...