Basic Ideas in Ancient Greek Mathematics

10th century CE Greek copy of Aristarchus of Samos’s calculations of the relative sizes of the sun, moon and the earth. / Konstable, Wikimedia Commons The ancient Greeks laid the essential groundwork and even began to build the structure of much of modern mathematics. By Dr. Michael Fowler Maxine S. and Jesse W. Beams Professor of Physics , Physics Education,Theoretical Condensed[…]

Picture-Perfect Approach to Science with Math

Zhengwei Liu (left) and Arthur Jaffe are leading a new project to expand quon, their pictorial math language developed to help understand quantum information theory, into new fields from algebra to M-theory. / Stephanie Mitchell, Harvard Staff Photographer Mathematicians work to expand their new pictorial mathematical language into other areas. By Peter Reuell / 01.24.2018 picture[…]

When Did Humans First Learn to Count?

Where did our written numbers come from? Nikita Rogul/shutterstock.com Linguistic clues show how people around the world first developed mathematical thought. By Dr. Peter Schumer / 06.05.2018 Baldwin Professor of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy Middlebury College The history of math is murky, predating any written records. When did humans first grasp the basic concept of a number? What[…]

Maria Agnesi, the Greatest Female Mathematician You’ve Never Heard Of

Agnesi was the first woman to write a mathematics textbook. AlexeyMaltsev/shutterstock.com May 16 marks the 300th anniversary of the first woman to write a mathematics textbook.    By Dr. Richard Gunderman (left) and David Gunderman (right) / 05.15.2018 R. Gunderman: Chancellor’s Professor of Medicine, Liberal Arts, and Philanthropy, Indiana University D. Gunderman: PhD Student in Applied Mathematics, University of Colorado The outmoded gender stereotype that women lack[…]

How the Greeks Used Geometry to Understand the Stars

10th century CE Greek copy of Aristarchus of Samos’s calculations of the relative sizes of the sun, moon and the earth. / Konstable, Wikimedia Commons By Dr. Michael Fowler Maxine S. and Jesse W. Beams Professor of Physics , Physics Education,Theoretical Condensed Matter Physics University of Virginia Crystal Spheres: Plato, Eudoxus, Aristotle Plato, with his belief that the world[…]

Nothing Matters: How the Invention of Zero Helped Create Modern Mathematics

Shutterstock Turning zero from a punctuation mark into a number paved the way for everything from algebra to algorithms. By Dr. Ittay Weiss / 09.20.2017 Teaching Fellow, Department of Mathematics University of Portsmouth A small dot on an old piece of birch bark marks one of the biggest events in the history of mathematics. The bark is actually part[…]

Accounting for Power: The History of an Industry that Shaped the World

All accounted for in Babylon. Belshazzar’s Feast by Rembrandt. Everett – Art/Shutterstock The number crunchers who helped create our capitalist world have been measuring theworld since ancient times. By Dr. Christina Neokleous / 07.21.2016 Lecturer in Accounting University of Essex In ancient Mesopotamia, Babylonia, Egypt, Rome and in Greece, the world saw the first flowering of an industry that would document and shape its[…]

Why Prime Numbers Still Fascinate Mathematicians, 2,300 Years Later

Primes still have the power to surprise. Chris-LiveLoveClick/shutterstock.com Prime numbers are the biggest and oldest data set in mathematics. Why have they captivated mathematicians for millennia? By Dr. Martin H. Weissman / 04.02.2018 Associate Professor of Mathematics University of California, Santa Cruz On March 20, American-Canadian mathematician Robert Langlands received the Abel Prize, celebrating lifetime achievement in mathematics. Langlands’ research demonstrated[…]

Srinivasa Ramanujan: The Man Who Taught Infinity

Srinivasa Ramanujan (middle) with fellow scientists at Cambridge. Wikimedia The unlikely friendship that allowed an untrained Indian mathematician to become an acclaimed academic. By Dr. Béla Bollobás / 04.22.2016 Professor of Pure Mathematics University of Cambridge Throughout the history of mathematics, there has been no one remotely like Srinivasa Ramanujan. There is no doubt that he was a[…]

On His 250th birthday, Joseph Fourier’s Math Still Matters

Fourier’s name is inscribed on the Eiffel Tower. / Creative Commons    By Dr. Richard Gunderman (left) and David Gunderman (right) / 03.20.2018 R. Gunderman: Chancellor’s Professor of Medicine, Liberal Arts, and Philanthropy, Indiana University D. Gunderman: PhD Student in Applied Mathematics, University of Colorado March 21 marks the 250th birthday of one of the[…]

Unsung Female Mathematicians: Celebrating Marion Walter

Searching for role models in the math world. ImageFlow/shutterstock.com By Dr. Jennifer Ruef / 03.12.2018 Assistant Professor of Education Studies University of Oregon When I was teaching mathematics in the 90s, before the internet, I had a book of “women mathematicians.” This was helpful for sharing inspirational stories with my middle school students, but there were[…]

Can Math Predict What You’ll Do Next?

Big data makes it a bit easier to guess your next move. blackboard1965/shutterstock.com    By Dr. Daniel J. Denis and Briana Young / 12.15.2017 Denis: Associate Professor of Quantitative Psychology Young: PhD Candidate in Experimental Program The University of Montana Good scientists are not only able to uncover patterns in the things they study, but to[…]

Escher and Coxeter – A Mathematical Conversation

Figure 1: Hand with Reflecting Sphere, M. C. Escher (1935) Lecture by Dr. Sarah Hart at the Museum of London / 06.05.2017 Professor of Mathematics Birkbeck, University of London Introduction In 1954 the artist Maurits Escher met the mathematician Donald Coxeter at the International Congress of Mathematicians in Amsterdam. This meeting sparked a lifelong correspondence[…]

Maryam Mirzakhani was a Role Model for More than Just Her Mathematics

Maryam Mirzakhani, YouTube Screen Capture By Mehrdokht Poumader / 07.17.2017 Lecturer in Operations Management and Organizational Behavior Macquarie Graduate School of Management On July 14, Maryam Mirzakhani, Stanford professor of mathematics and the only female winner of the prestigious Fields Medal in Mathematics, died at the age of 40. In just a few hours, her[…]

Did Artists Lead the Way in Mathematics?

Is there a geometry lesson hidden in ‘The Last Supper’? Wikimedia Commons By Dr. Henry Adams / 04.27.2017 Ruth Coulter Heede Professor of Art History Case Western Reserve University Mathematics and art are generally viewed as very different disciplines – one devoted to abstract thought, the other to feeling. But sometimes the parallels between the[…]

With New Technology, Mathematicians Turn Numbers into Art

Mathematical visualization techniques led the author to create this virtual scene, showing shapes from the realm of mathematics bursting into the physical world. Frank Farris, CC BY By Dr. Frank A. Farris / 04.04.2017 Associate Professor of Mathematics Santa Clara University Once upon a time, mathematicians imagined their job was to discover new mathematics and[…]