Ivars Peterson's MathTrek
The Poincaré conjecture has been in the news lately. Russian mathematician Grigori Perelman submitted a proof 3 years ago claiming that he had proved the famous conjecture. In August, he won a prestigious Fields medal for his achievement.
But what is the Poincaré conjecture? Here's how geometer Jeff Weeks describes it: "Basically, it's a conjecture about what the simplest possible space is in each dimension."
"In two dimensions, for surfaces, this has been known for a while [a sphere], but it gets much harder in three dimensions," he adds.
This description comes from a recent broadcast on the University of Arkansas public radio station KUAF 91.3 FM. Since 2004, mathematician Chaim Goodman-Strauss has been presenting newsy and entertaining math snippets on a program hosted by Kyle Kellams. These weekly segments, called "Math Factor," are now available as podcasts (http://listen.uark.edu/mathfactor/MathFactor.xml).
In the most recent segment, Goodman-Strauss and Kellams conducted a telephone interview with Weeks, who happened to be in Genoa, Italy. Weeks is the author of The Shape of Space: How to Visualize Surfaces and Three-Dimensional Manifolds. He received a MacArthur Fellowship in 1999.
"We've discussed cardinality, encryption, paradoxes, puzzles, rates of change, and much more," Goodman-Strauss says. "For a show about math, it is surprisingly well received by our general audience."
For a somewhat different sort of edifying experience, you can try an Internet radio station that features all science and math songs, all the time! You can find it at http://www.live365.com/stations/trappedinlab/, but you do need a subscription to the service to hear the music (or you can buy individual tracks). The DJ is Greg Crowther of the University of Washington in Seattle.
This station is associated with the MASSIVE database, which contains information on more than 2,000 science and math songs (available at http://www.science-groove.org/MASSIVE/). "MASSIVE" stands for "Math And Science Song Information, Viewable Everywhere."
Podcasts of "Math Factor" are available from http://listen.uark.edu/mathfactor/MathFactor.xml (enter this URL in your RSS-ready browser or search for "Math Factor" on iTunes.)
Klarreich, E. 2006. Fields medals: Mathematicians win awards for geometry, physics, and probability. Science News 170(Aug. 26):132.
______. 2003. If it looks like a sphere . . . Science News 163(June 14):378-379. Available at http://www.sciencenews.org/articles/20030614/bob10.asp.
Peterson, I. 2000. The square of the hypotenuse. MAA Online (Nov. 27). Available at http://www.maa.org/mathland/mathtrek_11_27_00.html.
______. 1999. A song about pi. MAA Online (July 12). Available at http://www.maa.org/mathland/mathtrek_7_12_99.html.
______.1998. More than just a plane game. MAA Online (March 16). Available at http://www.maa.org/mathland/mathtrek_3_16_98.html.
______. 1998. Circles in the sky. Science News 153(Feb. 21):123-125. Available at http://www.sciencenews.org/pages/sn_arc98/2_21_98/bob1.htm.
Weeks, J.R. 1985. The Shape of Space: How to Visualize Surfaces and Three-Dimensional Manifolds. Marcel Dekker.
Chaim Goodman-Strauss of the University of Arkansas has a Web site at http://comp.uark.edu/~strauss/.
A database of math and science songs can be found at http://www.science-groove.org/MASSIVE/.
Comments are welcome. Please send messages to Ivars Peterson at email@example.com.