Mathematical Ability May Be Related to an Inborn Sense of Number, September 11, 2008

From the MAA Mathematical Sciences Digital Library:

“In a new study, 14-year-olds who could readily identify the more numerous of two sets of colored dots had also achieved higher scores on standardized math tests in grade school. Such a “number sense,” established by age 4 months, seems to influence later math learning and achievement. In other words, when it comes to math achievement, some may be born to count.”

National Science Foundation. Mathematics: An overview of NSF Research

From NSF:

“Mathematics is about numbers, shapes, symmetry, chance, change and more. Much more. Math is not only the most rigorous mental discipline ever invented, it’s among the richest, most wide-ranging and most useful. Indeed, mathematics is deeply interwoven into all of modern life.

Mathematics is the natural language of science and engineering, for example, as well as being an essential tool for business and industry. No surprise there: these activities were math’s original inspiration. Its historical roots go back to our ancestors’ first attempts to keep account of their goods, to measure their fields and to predict events in the heavens, and eventually, the techniques they invented grew into arithmetic, algebra, geometry, calculus and a host of other subdisciplines.

Mathematics is also central to the information revolution. Downloadable music files, DVD movies, digital special effects and secure online credit card transactions, essentially any software application you can think of, owes its existence not just to computers, but to the mathematical algorithms that run on computers.

Then too, mathematics is a thing of fiercely compelling beauty in its own right. A vast conceptual framework that extends from Fermat’s last theorem to the quantum mysteries of superstring theory to the fragile intricacies of fractals, and far, far beyond.

And of course, mathematics is a field that is still growing, still evolving, still finding new applications. The National Science Foundation contributes to that effort as the leading supporter of fundamental mathematics research in the United States. Among the major research topics now being explored are:

  • Assembling Information into a Big Picture
  • Managing and Modeling Complexity
  • Deciding on the Best Choice
  • Pattern Hunting and Statistical Learning”

MIT solves 100-year-old engineering problem


“As a car accelerates up and down a hill then slows to follow a hairpin turn, the airflow around it cannot keep up and detaches from the vehicle. This aerodynamic separation creates additional drag that slows the car and forces the engine to work harder. The same phenomenon affects airplanes, boats, submarines, and even your golf ball.

Now, in work that could lead to ways of controlling the effect with potential impacts on fuel efficiency and more, MIT scientists and colleagues have reported new mathematical and experimental work for predicting where that aerodynamic separation will occur.

The research solves “a century-old problem in the field of fluid mechanics,” or the study of how fluids — which for scientists include gases and liquids — move, said George Haller, a visiting professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering. Haller’s group developed the new theory, while Thomas Peacock, the Atlantic Richfield Career Development Associate Professor in the same department, led the experimental effort.”

45th and 46th Known Mersenne Primes Discovered

From the GIMPS home page:
“On August 23rd, a UCLA computer discovered the 45th known Mersenne prime, 243,112,609-1, a mammoth 12,978,189 digit number! On September 6th, the 46th known Mersenne prime, 237,156,667-1, a 11,185,272 digit number was found by Hans-Michael Elvenich in Langenfeld near Cologne, Germany! This was the first Mersenne prime to be discovered out of order since Colquitt and Welsh discovered 2110,503-1 in 1988.”

Math Could Aid in Curing Cancer

From NSF:

“In a recent study that combined math and medicine, researchers have shown that patients with chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) may be cured of the disease with an optimally timed cancer vaccine, where the timing is determined based on their own immune response.”

UT Knoxville Wins $16M Mathematics and Biology Center

From UT Knoxville:

“The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded UT Knoxville $16 million to begin the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis, or NIMBioS. UT Knoxville won the award in competition with 18 of the nation’s other top research institutions. The center will be directed by Louis Gross, a professor of math and ecology and evolutionary biology.”

© Sidney Harris

Sidney Harris