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Aperiodical News Roundup – December 2022

Here’s a roundup of the maths news we missed in December 2022.

Maths News

The leap second, referred to in this Independent article as a ‘devastating time quirk’, is finally being abolished. This has been covered in a bunch of places, mostly being quite rude about the leap second, including a writeup in the New York Times where it’s referred to as ‘a kludge, a bain, a pain in the little hand’ (£), and this Live Science article (‘pesky’). A committee at the International Bureau of Weights and Measures apparently nearly unanimously voted in support of Resolution D, meaning there won’t be any leap seconds from 2035 until at least 2135.

A photo of Rachel Greenfield, a white female mathematician, wearing a polo neck and jeans and talking in front of a blackboard

Anti-maths news! Princeton mathematician Rachel Greenfield (pictured left – photo by Dan Komoda/Institute for Advanced Study), working with Fields Medalist Terry Tao, has posted a disproof of the periodic tiling conjecture. A preprint titled ‘A counterexample to the periodic tiling conjecture‘ is now on the ArXiv, and if it’s correct, means that any finite subset of a lattice which tiles that lattice by translations, must tile it periodically. There’s a nice explanation in the Quanta writeup!

Meanwhile there’s been a new claimed proof of the 4-colour theorem, which is non-constructive (meaning it doesn’t rely on finding a colouring for every possible map, but proves the theorem generally). Some people have been skeptical about the proof, including in this statement from Noam Zeilberger, which links to a Mastodon discussion with John Carlos Baez. (via Neil Calkin on Mastodon)

Another claimed proof – this time of the sunflower conjecture. A k-sunflower is a family of k different sets with common pair-wise intersections, and the conjecture gives conditions for when such a thing must exist.

ArXiv has posted a framework for improving the accessibility of research papers on arXiv.org – their plan is to offer html as well as PDF versions of papers. (via Deyan Ginev)

Events

Logo for 'What We Cannot Know', consisting of the words disappearing into a background of stripes fading from red to blue

Bright-trouser-wearer and mathematician Marcus Du Sautoy is offering a free OU online course, entitled ‘What we cannot know’. Find out how he manages to break the rules of reality by facilitating you knowing something that it’s by definition impossible to know, by signing up online for the 8-week course (which can also be accessed without signing in but then you don’t get a badge).

A photo of Hannah Fry, a young woman with long red hair, smiling while wearing a black top, with one elbow resting on a table
Any excuse to include a photo of HF ❤️

As part of their Elevating Mathematics video competition, the National Academies Board on Mathematical Sciences and Analytics (BMSA) invites early career professionals and students who use maths in their work to submit short video elevator speeches describing how their work in mathematics is important and relevant to our everyday lives, with a $1000 Prize for the best video.

And finally, in a rare instance of us linking to the Hollywood Reporter, Hannah Fry is to front a science and tech series for Bloomberg, entitled The Future With Hannah Fry. Sounds great! It’ll be available on Bloomberg’s Quicktake streaming service and will explore breakthroughs in artificial intelligence, crypto (not clear if -graphy or -currency), climate, chemistry and ethics.

Aperiodical News Roundup – November 2022

Here’s a roundup of things that happened online in November that we didn’t cover here at the time!

Maths Research News

According to an article on philosophy news site Daily Nous, an international symbolic logic journal printed then shortly retracted two articles, one entitled  “The Twin Primes Conjecture is True in the Standard Model of Peano Arithmetic: Applications of Rasiowa–Sikorski Lemma in Arithmetic” and the other “There are Infinitely Many Mersenne Prime Numbers. Applications of Rasiowa–Sikorski Lemma in Arithmetic“. After a discussion on MathOverflow, mistakes were found in both papers, and the journal’s editor posted:

Recently two articles on the applications of the Rasiowa-Sikorski Lemma to arithmetic were published online in Studia Logica without proper examination and beyond reasonable standards of scholarly rigor. As it turned out, they contained an irrrepairable mistake and, consequently, have been retracted from the journal’s website. The papers will not appear in print.

Studia Logica editor-in-chief Jacek Malinowski

(via Catarina Dutilh Novaes on Twitter, whose thread includes some clarifications.)

An arrangement of blue dots in a Life grid generating the digits 1,2,3 moving up the screen
Gliders producing decimal digits

According to Conway’s Life, a blog which documents developments in research around Conway’s Game of Life, on November 9, 2022 Pavel Grankovskiy discovered that 15 gliders can make any pattern in Conway’s game of life. Given a particular shape, the gliders can be set up to create it (eventually) beating a recent record of 16 gliders. (via Oscar Cunningham on mathstodon,xyz:)

Fields medalist Terry Tao reports some progress on the union closed sets conjecture, an open problem in combinatorics, which has seen rapid developments thanks to (in Tao’s words) ‘maths at internet speed’.

Other News

As of 11th November, applications for Young Researchers for the Heidelberg Laureate Forum 2023 are open. If you or someone you know is a researcher in maths or computer science at undergrad or postgrad level, and would like to spend a week next September in a lovely town in Germany meeting the world’s most decorated mathematicians and computer scientists, you should consider applying!

The latest issue of The Mathematics Enthusiast is a special issue collecting 29 reviews of popular maths books by maths educators, including Matt Parker, Hannah Fry, Eugenia Cheng, Simon Singh and Jordan Ellenberg among many others. If you’re looking for new pop maths book recommendations, it’s a good place to start!

Photo of the Earth and Jupiter in space
Check out these absolute units (Image: NASA/Brian0918/ Wikipedia Commons)

It was announced earlier this month that having discovered sufficiently many very big and very small numbers, it’s time for some new SI prefixes: ronna-, ronto-, quetta- and quecto- have joined the ranks of things that make numbers bigger and smaller, allowing you to describe itty bitty quantities as small as $10^{-27}$ (ronto) and $10^{-30}$ (quecto), as well as chonky numeros in the region of $10^{27}$ (ronna) and $10^{30}$ (quetta). The earth weighs 6 ronnagrams, and Jupiter is about 2 quettagrams.

“‘R’ and ‘Q’ were the only letters left in the English alphabet that hadn’t been used by other prefixes.”

Richard Brown, National Physical Laboratory

And in computer news, Google Chrome now supports MathML core, a language for describing mathematical notation embeddable in HTML and SVG. (via axel rauschmayer)

Aperiodical News Roundup – October 2022

Research

AI research company DeepMind said that their AlphaTensor system has discovered a new way to multiply matrices, citing this as the first such advance since the Strassen algorithm was proposed in 1969. AlphaTensor found thousands of algorithms for multiplying matrices of different sizes, but most were not better than the state of the art. Specifically, it found an algorithm for multiplying \(5 \times 5\) matrices in \(\mathbb{Z}_2\) in just 96 operations. There’s a paper in Nature describing how the algorithm was found.

It’s not all over for us humans just yet, though: the DeepMind announcement prompted two algebraists at Linz University, Jakob Moosbauer and Manuel Kauers, to see if they could do even better. After a few days of thought, they published The FBHHRBNRSSSHK-Algorithm for Multiplication in $\mathbb{Z}_2^{5\times5}$ is still not the end of the story on the arXiv, giving an algorithm which does the multiplication in only 95 steps.

Meanwhile, in other computers-helping-humans news, the Lean 3 library mathlib has made it to 100,000 theorems, none of which have been left as an exercise for the reader.

Events

The IMA and LMS have joined forces to offer a new university access programme called Levelling Up: Maths, which aims to address the difficulties that young people of Black heritage face in STEM. A-level students can join the programme, and will be able to access teaching and mentoring in virtual tutorial groups with Black heritage undergraduates, as well as events with Black guest speakers. The programme is also supported by the RAEng, BCS, IOP RSC, MEI and STEM Learning, as well as the Association for Black & Minority Ethnic Engineers (AFBE-UK) and Black British Professionals in STEM (BBSTEM).

What Can Mathematicians Do? is a series of free online public maths presentations organised by Newcastle University’s School of Mathematics, Statistics and Physics, covering a wide range of topics such as how colours mix, how to make a mint on the stock market, and how to pick your next Netflix binge. Aimed at students in school years 10 to 13, the talks are all given by disabled presenters: to show that anyone can be a mathematician, and mathematicians can do anything.

And finally: last weekend, a group of maths communicators (including several Aperiodical editors and regulars) put together a live online 24-hour Mathematical Game Show, featuring mathematical games, games with a mathematical twist, the maths of games and games about maths. The show has raised nearly £5000 for a collection of excellent charities, and the whole show is available to watch back in half-hour or 1-hour segments.

And finally

Nick Berry of the Data Genetics blog has died. The site ran for over a decade, and was described by Alex Bellos as ‘one of best examples of maths outreach on the web […] A brilliant cabinet of curiosities’. Nick passed away peacefully at home on Saturday October 8th after a long battle with cancer. (via Alex Bellos on Twitter)

Phil Goldstein, aka magician Max Maven, has died. Max Maven popularised the Gilbreath principle, which underlies a host of astonishing mathematical card tricks. (via Colm Mulcahy on Twitter)

Aperiodical News Roundup – September 2022

Here’s a roundup of mathematical news stories we didn’t get round to writing about yet this month.

Aperiodical News Roundup – August 2022

Not much going on in the world of maths this month (or, we’re on holiday so we haven’t been paying attention), but here’s a round-up of a few stories we saw this month.

The next Black Heroes of Mathematics Conference is scheduled for the 4th and 5th October, taking place online and featuring speakers including statistician Sophie Dabo-Niang (University of Lille), actuarial/finance lecturer Tolulope Fadina (University of Essex), Tosin Babasola (University of Bath), mathematician and former NFL player John Urschel (Harvard), Mathematically Uncensored podcast host Aris Winger (Georgia Gwinnett College), engineer Ejay Nsugbe (Nsugbe Research Labs), Nandi Leslie (Raytheon Technologies) and Franck Kalala Mutombo (University of Lubumbashi). The event is a joint initiative between The British Society for the History of Mathematicsthe International Centre for Mathematical Sciences, the Institute of Mathematics and its Applicationsthe Isaac Newton Institutethe London Mathematical Society, and the Mathematical Association.

Photo: HLFF

Later this month the 9th Heidelberg Laureate Forum will take place in Germany, bringing together laureates of the Abel Prize, Fields Medal and other prestigious maths and computer science awards. The event also invites hundreds of promising PhD students in maths and computer science to network and watch lectures by the laureates. Much of the conference will be livestreamed online, and there’ll be Twitter and blog coverage of the event (including some posts by me, and others by Chalkdust team member/friend of the site Sophie Maclean).

Aperiodic tilings exhibition

The Open University has put together a mathematical art exhibition and workshop inspired by aperiodic tilings, in honour of Uwe Grimm, and it’s now possible to view the Aperiodic tilings exhibition online, including stills of the pieces and a video walk around the exhibition.

And finally: our own Peter has noticed an interesting trend of positive coverage of maths in the media, and has collected some examples in this Twitter thread, including a Guardian piece about someone who discovered a love of maths later in life having struggled at school, a BBC Radio 4 episode of biography show ‘Great Lives’ on Dame Kathleen Ollerenshaw. Add your own examples to the thread!

Aperiodical News Roundup – July 2022

Here’s a roundup of some mathematical news we didn’t yet report from the last month.

The makers of documentary film ‘Olga Ladyzhenskaya’, detailing the life of the Russian mathematician, have released a five-minute trailer giving a flavour of the film. (via ICM Intelligencer)

From the Olga Ladyzhenskaya trailer

Research

According to a new ArXiV paper, the triple bubble conjecture (a result about the shapes taken by surfaces that are attempting to enclose a volume, or in this case three volumes, with minimal surface area) has been solved. (via Ian Agol)

The Lean community, who use and blog about the Lean proof assistant, have announced completion of the liquid tensor experiment – proving the main theorem of liquid vector spaces (me neither) and thereby formalising a big serious proof using the system. (via David Eppstein)

In computer science, a new ArXiV paper takes us a step closer to automating quantitative reasoning – Minerva, a large language model pre-trained on general natural language data and technical content, has correctly solved some college-level questions that “require quantitative reasoning”.

Awards

Photograph of the four 2022 Fields Medalists sitting in a row at the award ceremony
2022 Fields Medalists (L-R: Maryna Viazovska, James Maynard, June Huh, and Hugo Duminil-Copin) Photo: HLFF

A big month for prizes, with the announcement of the 2022 Fields medals, awarded to Hugo Duminil-Copin, June Huh, James Maynard and Maryna Viazovska, as well as the 2022 Christopher Zeeman medal, which has been awarded to Simon Singh.

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