Short Summaries of Articles about Mathematics
in the Popular Press
"The Importance of Being Nothingness" by Craig J. Hogan, "Prodigious Math" by Kelle Love, and "Statistical Tales" by Theodore Porter. Reviews in American Scientist, September-October, 2001. pp. 458-459, 468-469, and 469-470.
Hogan reviews K. C. Cole's The Hole in the Universe: How Scientists Peered over the Edge of Emptiness and Found Everything and John D. Barrow's The Book of Nothing: Vacuums, Voids, and the Latest Ideas about the Origins of the Universe. The latter is more relevant for those interested in mathematics. Hogan writes that "Barrow explores, with meticulous scholarly attention to detail, thousands of years of philosophy, mathematics, physics and theology organized around the concept of Nothingness." Barrow also explains how ancient numbering systems worked. The reviewer seems to appreciate Barrow's book more than he does Cole's.
Kelle Love, a senior in high school, reviews In Code: A Mathematical Journey, a book written by Sarah and David Flannery. Sarah made the front page of the London Times two years ago at the age of 16 for developing an encryption algorithm. The book is about Sarah's experience with the algorithm, with mathematics in general and with the media. Her father, David, is a mathematics professor. Love wishes that there were more details about the algorithm in the book, but writes that the book "is both inspiring and compelling."
Porter's impression of The Lady Tasting Tea: How Statistics Revolutionized Science in the Twentieth Century is best summarized by the final two sentences of the review: "The book, when properly checked, may well merit a second edition. It did not deserve its first."
--- Mike Breen