Mathematics in the News I (8/22/2000)

Prepared by:

Joseph Malkevitch
Mathematics and Computing Department
York College (CUNY)
Jamaica, New York 11451-0001

Email: (for additions, suggestions, and corrections)


You will not always find explicit reference to mathematics in the items which follow. However, in all cases mathematics is directly or indirectly involved. Many of the articles below could be put into several different categories. The categories are chosen with a variety of titles, some keyed to mathematics topics and some to applications area.


Sanderson, J., Testing ecological patterns, American Scientist 88 (2000)

The article deals with the attempts to explain and understand the pattern of different species that one observes in isolated ecosystems.

Hesman, T., The Meaning of Life: Computers are unscrambling genomes to reveal the secrets in DNA codes, Science News 157 (April 29, 2000) 284-286.

Computer algorithms are being used to try to determine those parts of an organism's DNA which are genes. Many ingenious ideas are being pursued.


Alvarez, L. and J. Clausing, Senate approves bill that allows online contracts, New York Times 149 (June 17, 2000) A1.

Senate action on a digital signature bill, already approved by the House of Representatives, and President Clinton's indication he will sign the bill will help promote e-commerce. The bill allows legally enforceable digital signatures for bank loans, investment accounts, and health insurance.

Jones, J. and M. Johnston, Digital signature bill enables e-commerce, Infoworld, 22 (June 19, 2000) 8.

The House of Representatives recently passed, without specifying a particular technical standard, a digital signature bill. The bill makes digitally signed documents binding in the same way that signed paper documents would be. President Clinton has signed a version of this bill and electronic signatures are now binding in America. See also: R. Yasin, Digital IDs pass legislative test, Internet Week, (June 13, 2000) 13.

Sanborn, S., Protecting intellectual property on the Web, Infoworld 22 (June 19, 2000) 40.

Transmission of information in digital format, especially files that encode music (e.g. MP3), are creating challenges for the property rights of composers, performers, and companies that produce the original information.


Tillett, L., "Wormholes" speed web buys, Internet Week (June 26, 2000) 1,17.

Variations of ideas related to bar-codes are being used to speed purchases on the Web.


Terry, D., U.S. child poverty rate fell as economy grew, but is above 1979 level, New York Times, 149 (August 11, 2000) A 10.

Reports recent data about child poverty in America.

Environmental Science

Peterson, I., Mathematician on Ice, Science News 158 (August 12, 2000) 106-108.

Mathematical models can be used to understand the forming of brine pockets in ice and ice structure.

Everyday Life

Goldberg, C., Massachusetts is set apart in ratio of older mothers, New York Times, 149 (June 21, 2000) A 16.

A rise in the age of older mothers seems to related to a rise in low birth weight babies in Massachusetts.

Fairness and Equity

Hill, T., Mathematical devices for getting a fair share, American Scientist 88 (2000) 325-331.

A variety of different ways of dealing with fair division problems is discussed.


Chartrand, S., A new encryption system would protect a coveted digital data stream-music on the Web, New York Times 149 (July 3, 2000) C8.

This article deals with a newly patented system for protecting music files based on ideas involving public key cryptography.

(unsigned), Rock musicians warn legislators of internet piracy, New York Times, Wed., July 12, 2000, p. C3.

Data compression methods are used in many of the ways music is transmitted digitally. This article centers around intellectual property rights versus changing ways of delivering music to consumers.


Fuerbringer, J., John C. Harsanyi, 80 is dead; won Nobel economics award, New York Times 149 (August 12, 2000) C 16.

Harsanyi shared the Nobel prize in 1994 for his work in game theory.

Chang, K., Thomas H. Wolff, expert in math analysis, dies at 46, New York Times 149 (August 10, 2000) C 22.

Wolff's work included insights into quantum mechanics. He died in an automobile accident.


Public Health

Hillis, D., Origins of HIV, Science 288 (June 9, 2000) 1757-1759. (Technical details: B. Korber, et al., Timing the ancestor of the HIV-1 pandemic strains, Science (June 9, 2000) 1789-1796.

This article reports on attempts to construct an evolutionary tree for the HIV-1 group of viruses.

General sources:

1. Circuits Section, Thursday, New York Times.

2. Science Times, Tuesday, New York Times.

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