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What's Happening in the Mathematical Sciences 1998-1999, Vol. 4

Barry Cipra
American Mathematical Society
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The Basic Library List Committee suggests that undergraduate mathematics libraries consider this book for acquisition.

[Reviewed by
Fernando Q. Gouvêa
, on

It's likely that most readers of MAA Online don't need me to point them towards the What's Happening in the Mathematical Sciences series, edited by Paul Zorn and written by Barry Cipra. These books, which come out once a year, provide surveys of interesting recent work in mathematics. Cipra writes for the informed "general reader," using lots of graphs, diagrams, and pictures. (Some equations appear, but they are usually put into sidebars or colored boxes so that the equation-averse reader can avoid them.) The articles are very well written, and usually include quotes from the mathematicians who were involved in the work in question, giving the whole thing a more "human" feel. This year's issue includes articles on Deep Blue's chess victory over Garry Kasparov, on Paul Erdös, on the interaction of algebraic geometry with computers, on chaos in the population dynamics of beetles, on cryptography, and several more topics. A special treat is the inclusion of a text on "Mathematical Discovery," written in 1908 by Henri Poincaré, which offers an interesting counterpoint to the material in the other essays. This book offers professionals a way to keep abreast of what's going on in the field and also gives us a way to share with our students and colleagues some of the excitement of doing mathematics. Don't miss it.

  • A blue-letter day for computer chess
  • A prime case of chaos
  • Proof by example: A mathematician's mathematician
  • Computers take algebraic geometry back to its roots
  • As easy as EQP
  • Beetlemania: Chaos in ecology
  • From wired to weird
  • Tales from the cryptosystem
  • But is it math?
  • Mathematical discovery (by Henri Poincaré)
  • Science and method