A conversation about mathematics inspired by the Joukowsky aerofoil. Presented by Katie Steckles and Peter Rowlett.
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Mathematician and ninja mathematical-thinking-prompter Alison Kiddle has been posting an image each day for the whole of August, each prompting some kind of mathematical question or discussion.
Here’s some mathematical news that didn’t make it on to the site otherwise this month.
There’s been more abc conjecture drama: Peter Scholze and Jakob Stix are in line for a ¥140m (around £766k) prize for their paper pointing out the flaw in Mochizuki’s claimed abc proof – if they publish it in a journal.
A period 19 oscillator has been found in Conway’s game of life – the discussion thread on ConwayLife just gives it as a series of coordinates, but it already has an entry on LifeWiki, where it’s called ‘Cribbage’. (via Isaac Grosof)
Then, a week later, the first ever period 41 oscillator was also found! Excitingly named 204P41 (consisting of 204 cells) it’s led to another discovery – it looks like we now know how to make oscillators with any period, meaning Game of Life is omniperiodic. Since 2013 we’ve known all periods above 43 were possible, and this fills a gap in this excellent table.
Lean’s mathlib has been completely ported to Lean4 – if you’re familiar with proof assistants, you may find this news exciting or significant. Here’s a video showing off what that looks like. Meanwhile, the Lean Focused Research Organization has been set up to “advance the formal mathematics revolution”. (via @firstname.lastname@example.org)
Events and Organisations
Inclusion/Exclusion, a justice and maths blog, has posted an open letter to the MAA about holding MathFest in Florida, requesting an option for online participation due to the state’s recent draconian law changes. It pulls ε punches:
Regardless of any in-person safeguards that MAA may put in place, this year’s MathFest will not be a safe event for trans people, for undocumented immigrants, or for many other members of our community, including disabled people. Therefore, our most urgent request is that you provide an online participation option.Excerpt from the open letter
If π approximation day on 22/7 got you thinking about your plans for the next actual π day, you might find it useful to know that the International Day of Mathematics 2024 theme is Playing With Math. From their website, “In 2024 we want to celebrate mathematical games, puzzles and other entertaining activities, but also “playing” with mathematics itself, exploring, experimenting, and discovering.”
Speaking of mathematical games, Ben Orlin has released a book of solitaire games as a follow-up to his “Math Games with Bad Drawings”. It’s available for free on his website as a PDF, and therefore weighs infinity less than the actual book it’s a follow-up to, which is so huge it’s collapsed into a black hole under its own mass. (via Patrick Honner)
And finally: Tim Wall, the Australian group theorist, has died. According to his profile on the Australian Academy of Science website, Wall “has made highly significant and original contributions to the development of Algebra, in particular to the Theory of Groups. […] He has always instinctingly given of his ideas to his collaborators and younger colleagues.” Thanks Tim!
A conversation about mathematics inspired by a guitar. Presented by Katie Steckles and Peter Rowlett, with special guest Sam Hartburn.
A conversation about mathematics inspired by a 1960s game designed to teach set theory. Presented by Katie Steckles and Peter Rowlett.
On-Sets: A Vintage Set Theory Game by Peter Rowlett is free to read in Math Horizons.
Maths news didn’t stop coming this month, and if you missed it, here was our coverage of the new Spectre aperiodic monotile, an improvement on the previous monotile discovery. Here’s some other news that happened in May and June which we didn’t otherwise cover here.
Vladimir Drinfeld and Shing-Tung Yau have been awarded the 2023 Shaw Prize for their contributions related to mathematical physics, to arithmetic geometry, differential geometry and Kähler geometry. (via the European Mathematical Society)
According to provisional 2023 entry data, mathematics remains the most popular choice at A level in England and Wales this year.
Ticket sales continue apace for this year’s TMiP maths communication conference, and in the meantime it’s inspired a nascent equivalent network for math communicators in the US – sign up if you’re an American math communicator who WLTM others.
There’s been a moderation strike at Stack Overflow, which includes Math Overflow, in response to AI-generated content policy changes. “Striking community members will refrain from moderating and curating content, including casting flags, and critical community-driven anti-spam and quality control infrastructure will be shut down.” (via theHigherGeometer)
There’s a free online IMA event, including a talk called ‘How Maths Helped Me to Annoy My Insurance Company’ by Victoria Sánchez Muñoz taking place at 5pm on Thursday 13 July.
Obviously the most important news this month is the new Rubik’s cube world record – it’s now possible for a human to solve the cube in as little as 3.13 seconds (furious they’ve skipped π seconds) and the GIF included in the article shows just how impressive the feat was.
And finally, this Nature article outlines how deep reinforcement learning has discovered faster sorting algorithms. Algorithms such as sorting or hashing are everywhere – used trillions of times a day, according to the article. This means even small efficiency improvements can be huge because of the scale, but these algorithms are so well-studied that further efficiency was difficult to imagine. DeepMind trained a deep reinforcement agent, AlphaDev, to work from scratch using assembly code to attempt to find a better sorting routine. The researchers reverse engineered the algorithms found by AlphaDev to C++ and found these led to performance improvements of “up to 70% for sequences of a length of five and roughly 1.7% for sequences exceeding 250,000 elements”. The Nature paper has details of the algorithmic improvements. The improved algorithms have already been implemented into the LLVM libc++ standard sorting library.