What do exoplanets, fourbillionyearold life, Fermi’s paradox and zeroone 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 TRAPPIST1 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 TRAPPIST1, about 40 lightyears (235 trillion miles or 378 trillion km) from earth. This is clearly a remarkable discovery, adding seven to
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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 firstworld 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 20year period for study of educational trends around the world.
In November 2016, results for the
Continue reading Asian tigers roar in the latest TIMSS mathscience rankings
Computer proofs
Considerable attention has been drawn to the discovery and proof of mathematical theorems by computer.
Perhaps the first major result by a computer came in 1976, with a proof of fourcolor theorem, namely the assertion that any map (with certain reasonable conditions) can be colored with just four distinct colors for individual states. This was first proved by computer in 1976, although flaws were later found, and a corrected proof was not completed until 1995.
In 2003, Thomas Hales of the University of Pittsburgh published a computerbased proof of Kepler’s conjecture, namely the assertion that the familiar method
Continue reading Are humans or computers better at mathematics?
Introduction
Foster in Contact, saying “They should have sent a poet”
Earlier this year, Kentucky governor Matt Bevin declared that state colleges and universities should educate more electrical engineers and fewer French literature majors: “All the people in the world that want to study French literature can do so, they are just not going to be subsidized by the taxpayer.”
Other politicians have sounded a similar refrain. Governor Patrick McCroy of North Carolina suggested basing funding on postgraduate employment rather than enrollment, or, as he put it rather crudely, “It’s not based on butts in seats but on how
Continue reading Why science needs the humanities

