Kevin Hartnett

Senior Writer

Photo of students sitting at desks competing in the International Mathematical Olympiad
Abstractions blog

At the Math Olympiad, Computers Prepare to Go for the Gold

September 21, 2020

Computer scientists are trying to build an AI system that can win a gold medal at the world’s premier math competition.

Photo of Marijn Heule walking among computer processors
Abstractions blog

Computer Scientists Attempt to Corner the Collatz Conjecture

August 26, 2020

A powerful technique called SAT solving could work on the notorious Collatz conjecture. But it’s a long shot.

Illustration of floating metal cubes joining together, some of their faces yellow
geometry

Computer Search Settles 90-Year-Old Math Problem

August 19, 2020

By translating Keller’s conjecture into a computer-friendly search for a type of graph, researchers have finally resolved a problem about covering spaces with tiles.

Abstractions blog

How Physics Found a Geometric Structure for Math to Play With

July 29, 2020

Symplectic geometry is a relatively new field with implications for much of modern mathematics. Here’s what it’s all about.

Animated illustration showing vulnerable red shapes become “infected” and turn green, amid immune blue shapes.
Abstractions blog

The Tricky Math of Herd Immunity for COVID-19

June 30, 2020

Herd immunity differs from place to place, and many factors influence how it’s calculated.

Animation of different rectangles made by connecting four points on a colorful loop.
geometry

New Geometric Perspective Cracks Old Problem About Rectangles

June 25, 2020

While locked down due to COVID-19, Joshua Greene and Andrew Lobb figured out how to prove a version of the “rectangular peg problem.”

Diagram showing a colorful visualization of the simple Lie group
Abstractions blog

The ‘Useless’ Perspective That Transformed Mathematics

June 9, 2020

Representation theory was initially dismissed. Today, it’s central to much of mathematics.

Photo of various colorful maps
Abstractions blog

In Mathematics, It Often Takes a Good Map to Find Answers

June 1, 2020

Mathematicians try to figure out when problems can be solved using current knowledge — and when they have to chart a new path instead.

Photo of iron filings spread along magnetic field lines on a green and yellow background
number theory

Mathematician Measures the Repulsive Force Within Polynomials

May 14, 2020

Vesselin Dimitrov’s proof of the Schinzel-Zassenhaus conjecture quantifies the way special values of polynomials push each other apart.

About the author

Kevin Hartnett is a senior writer at Quanta Magazine covering mathematics and computer science. His work has been collected in the “Best Writing on Mathematics” series in 2013, 2016 and 2017. From 2013-2016 he wrote “Brainiac,” a weekly column for the Boston Globe‘s Ideas section.