
Credit: Wikimedia
The reproducibility crisis in science
Recent public reports have underscored a crisis of reproducibility in numerous fields of science. Here are just a few of recent cases that have attracted widespread publicity:
In 2012, Amgen researchers reported that they were able to reproduce fewer than 10 of 53 cancer studies. In 2013, in the wake of numerous recent instances of highly touted pharmaceutical products failing or disappointing when fielded, researchers in the field began promoting the All Trials movement, which would require participating firms and researchers to post the results of all trials, successful or not. In
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Credit: MathIsFun.com
The discovery of decimal arithmetic
The discovery of decimal arithmetic in ancient India, together with the wellknown schemes for long multiplication and long division, surely must rank as one of the most important discoveries in the history of science. The date of this discovery, by an unknown Indian mathematician or group of mathematicians, was recently pushed back to the third century CE, based on the recent dating of the Bakhshali manuscript, but it probably happened earlier, perhaps around 0 CE.
Arithmetic on modern computers
Computers, of course, do not use
Continue reading An n log(n) algorithm for multiplication
LENR: Science or pseudoscience?
As chronicled in the earlier Math Scholar blog, a community of researchers has been pursuing a new green energy source, known as “low energy nuclear reaction” (LENR) physics, or, variously, “latticeassisted nuclear reaction” (LANR) physics or “condensed matter nuclear reaction” (CMNR) physics. This work harkens back to 1989, when University of Utah researchers Martin Fleischmann and Stanley Pons that they had achieved desktop “cold fusion,” in a hastily called news conference. After several other laboratories failed to reproduce these findings, the scientific community quickly concluded that the Utah researchers were mistaken, to put it mildly.
But
Continue reading LENR: A skeptical perspective
The Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters has awarded the Abel Prize, a mathematical award often regarded as on a level with the Nobel Prize, to Karen Uhlenbeck of the University of Texas, USA.
The award cited her work in geometric analysis, gauge theory and global analysis, which has application across a broad range of modern mathematics and mathematical physics, including models for particle physics, string theory and general relativity.
Her career began in the mid1960s, under the advisor Richard Palais. Palais had been exploring some connections between analysis (generalizations of calculus) and topology and geometry (the mathematical theory of
Continue reading Karen Uhlenbeck wins the Abel Prize
Credit: IPCC
The threat of climate change
The threat of climate change is emerging as the premier global issue of our time. As a recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) grimly warns, even a 1.5 degree C (2.7 degree F) rise in global temperatures would have “substantial” consequences, in terms of extreme weather, damage to ecosystems and calamitous impact on human communities. But limiting the increase to 1.5 degree C will still require a wrenching change away from fossil fuels and an equally wrenching realignment of global economies, all over the next decade or as
Continue reading LENR energy: Science or pseudoscience?
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Mordell’s cube sum problem
In 1957, BritishAmerican mathematician Louis Mordell asked whether, given some integer $k$, there are integers $x, y, z$ such that $x^3 + y^3 + z^3 = k$. Like Fermat’s last theorem, this problem is very easily stated but very difficult to explore, much less solve definitively.
Some solutions are easy. When $k = 3$, for instance, there are two simple solutions: $1^3 + 1^3 + 1^3 = 3$ and $4^3 + 4^3 + (5)^3 = 3$. It is also known that there are no solutions in other cases, including
Continue reading New result for Mordell’s cube sum problem
Once again Pi Day (March 14, or 3/14 in North American notation) is here, a day when both professional mathematicians and students alike celebrate this most famous of mathematical numbers.
San Francisco’s Exploratorium is featuring several events, culminating with a “Pi Procession” at 1:59pm Pacific Time (corresponding to 3.14159) and pie served at 2:15pm. The website teachpi.org lists 50 ideas to make Pi Day “entertaining, educational, tasty and fun.”
For this year’s Pi Day festivities, the Math Scholar blog presents a Pi Day crossword puzzle (see below), created by the present author. We will announce the first correct solver! Send
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Credit: Ancient Origins
Introduction
Archimedes is widely regarded as the greatest mathematician of antiquity. He was a pioneer of applied mathematics, for instance with his discovery of the principle of buoyancy, and a master of engineering designs, for instance with his “screw” to raise water from one level to another. But his most farreaching discovery was the “method of exhaustion,” which he used to deduce the area of a circle, the surface area and volume of a sphere and the area under a parabola. Indeed, with this method Archimedes anticipated, by nearly
Continue reading Simple proofs: Archimedes’ calculation of pi
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Isaac Newton, Credit: sjisblog.com
Introduction: The fundamental theorem of calculus, namely the fact that integration is the inverse of differentiation, is indisputably one of the most important results of all mathematics, with applications across the whole of modern science and engineering. It is not an exaggeration to say that our entire modern world hinges on the fundamental theorem of calculus. It has applications in astronomy, astrophysics, quantum theory, relativity, geology, biology, economics, just to name a few fields of science, as well as countless applications in all types of engineering — civil,
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Top 500 supercomputer performance (orange = #1, blue = #500, green = sum)
Postmodern denials of scientific progress
The fact that scientific research has made immense progress over the past years, decades and centuries is taken for granted among professional scientists and most of the lay public as well. But there are others, from both the left wing and the right wing of society, who question, dismiss or even reject the notion that science progresses. One group, which is mostly rooted in the right wing of society, rejects the scientific consensus on evolution, as with the creationism and intelligent
Continue reading Is scientific progress real?

