Is the universe fine-tuned for intelligent life?

Is the universe fine-tuned for intelligent life? Astrophysicist Geraint Lewis and cosmologist Luke Barnes, both at the University of Sydney, Australia, wade into this perplexing and controversial arena in a new book, published by Cambridge University Press, entitled A Fortunate Universe: Life in a Finely Tuned Cosmos.

The book presents a comprehensive analysis of the issue, delving into nuclear physics, astrophysics, cosmology, biology and philosophy. It is entertainingly written, yet does not compromise in detail. The authors mercifully relegate some of the more technical material to footnotes, but even the footnotes are remarkably useful and well documented. The book is

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Yves Meyer wins the Abel Prize for wavelet work

Yves Meyer, courtesy Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters

The Abel Prize

On 21 March 2017 the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters announced that the 2017 Abel Prize for mathematics, thought by many to be on a par with the Nobel Prize, has been awarded to Yves Meyer for his groundbreaking work on wavelets.

Many of the leading awards made in the field of mathematics are for highly abstract theoretical work. But wavelet theory is certainly in the area of applied mathematics, as it is now used in many different real-world arenas. Applications include data compression, acoustic noise

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Exoplanets, 4 billion-year-old life, Fermi’s paradox and zero-one laws

What do exoplanets, four-billion-year-old life, Fermi’s paradox and zero-one laws of probability theory have to do with each other? Quite a bit, actually. Let us review these developments, one by one:

New exoplanet discoveries

Depiction of the seven exoplanets of the TRAPPIST-1 system. Courtesy NASA.

On 22 February 2017, a consortium of NASA and European astronomers announced that there are not just one but seven planets that potentially could harbor life, all orbiting a yellow dwarf star named TRAPPIST-1, about 40 light-years (235 trillion miles or 378 trillion km) from earth. This is clearly a remarkable discovery, adding seven to

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Reproducibility: Principles, Problems, Practices, and Prospects

The book Reproducibility: Principles, Problems, Practices, and Prospects, which contains a chapter co-authored by the late Jonathan Borwein and the present authors (Victoria Stodden and David H. Bailey), has won a 2017 Prose Award (“Honorable Mention”) in the category “Textbook/Best in Physical Sciences and Mathematics.” These prizes are awarded annually in 53 categories by the Professional and Scholarly Publishing division of the Association of American Publishers.

This volume consists of 27 chapters, grouped into six sections, which collectively address questions of reproducibility in a broad range of scientific disciplines, ranging from medicine, physical sciences, life sciences, social sciences and even

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Space, Time and the Limits of Human Understanding

Springer has just published the book Space, Time and the Limits of Human Understanding. The book consists of 39 chapters, each written by a leading figure in one of the six general areas covered in the volume (philosophy, physics, mathematics, biology and cognitive science, logic and computer science, and miscellaneous). The present author has an article, co-authored with the late Jonathan Borwein, entitled “A computational mathematics view of space, time and complexity.” The book is targeted to a technical reader, but a first-year college calculus and physics background suffices for at least 90% of the material.

Here is a sample

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“My Search for Ramanujan”

Recently Ken Ono, a renowned mathematician at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, published an autobiography entitled My Search for Ramanujan: How I Learned to Count. It is co-authored with Amir Aczel, who, among other things, wrote the book Finding Zero, but sadly Aczel passed away before the book was completed.

Ken Ono was the son of Takashi Ono, a Japanese mathematician who taught at the University of Pennsylvania. Ono’s field of research has closely paralleled the writings of famed Inidian mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan. Among other things, Ono significantly extended Ramanujan’s work on partition congruences and mock theta functions, and, with

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Enhancing reproducibility in mathematical and scientific computing

Victoria Stodden, Marcia McNutt (President of the American Association for the Advancement of Science), David H. Bailey, Ewa Deelman, Yolanda Gil, Brooks Hanson, Michael Heroux, John Ioannidis and Michela Taufer have published an article in Science (the principal journal of the AAAS) entitled Enhancing reproducibility in computational methods.

In this article we argue that the field of mathematical and scientific computing lags behind other fields in establishing a culture and tools to ensure reproducibility. All too often, the authors of computations, even those that are published in peer-reviewed conferences and journals, have not fully documented their algorithms, code, input data

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Breakthrough Foundation announces 2017 prizes in math, physics and life sciences

The Breakthrough Foundation has announced a new set of winners of their awards, including recipients in mathematics, physics and life sciences. The founders of the Breakthrough Prize are Sergey Brin (co-founder of Google) and Anne Wojcicki (co-founder of 23andme), Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan (founder of Facebook and his spouse), Yuri Milner and Julia Milner (Russian venture capitalist and his spouse), and Jack Ma and Cathy Zhang (founder of Alibaba and his spouse).

Mathematics prize

The Breakthrough Prize in mathematics (USD$3 million) was awarded to Jean Bourgain of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey. Bourgain’s work

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Asian tigers roar in the latest TIMSS math-science rankings

The latest international results comparing Grade 4 and Grade 8 students in mathematics and science are in, and, once again, the Asian tigers (China, Korea, Japan, and Singapore) are roaring, significantly leading major first-world nations such as the United States, England and Australia.

TIMSS results

The Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) is an international test to compare the achievement of fourth and eighth grade students in mathematics and science. It has been administered every four years since 1995, thus providing a 20-year period for study of educational trends around the world.

In November 2016, results for the

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Bailey, Borwein, Mattingly and Wightwick to receive the Levi L. Conant Prize from AMS

The American Mathematical Society has announced that David H. Bailey, Jonathan Borwein, Andrew Mattingly and Glenn Wightwick will receive the 2017 Levi L. Conant Prize. Bailey is a retired senior scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and a research associate at the University of California, Davis. Borwein (deceased 2 August 2016) was a Laureate Professor of Mathematics at the University of Newcastle, Australia. Mattingly is senior information technology architect at IBM Australia. Wightwick is deputy vice-chancellor and vice-president (Research) at the University of Technology Sydney.

This year’s prize was awarded for the recipients’ 2013 article The Computation of Previously

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