Kevin Hartnett

Senior Writer

Abstractions blog

Undergraduates Hunt for Special Tetrahedra That Fit Together

February 9, 2021

A group of MIT undergraduates is searching for tetrahedra that tile space, the latest effort in a millennia-long inquiry. They’ve already made a new discovery.

Colorful isualization of the 59 isolated examples of tetrahedra that have rational dihedral angles
geometry

Tetrahedron Solutions Finally Proved Decades After Computer Search

February 2, 2021

Four mathematicians have cataloged all the tetrahedra with rational angles, resolving a question about basic geometric shapes using techniques from number theory.

Mathematician Lauren Williams standing in front of a whiteboard that has mathematics written on it.
combinatorics

A Mathematician’s Unanticipated Journey Through the Physical World

December 16, 2020

Lauren Williams has charted an adventurous mathematical career out of the pieces of a fundamental object called the positive Grassmannian.

Photo of Ashwin Sah standing in front of a sculpture in a park
Abstractions blog

Undergraduate Math Student Pushes Frontier of Graph Theory

November 30, 2020

At 21, Ashwin Sah has produced a body of work that senior mathematicians say is nearly unprecedented for a college student.

Black and white historical photo of eight men in front of a building, including Henri Cartan, André Weil and Szolem Mandelbrojt.
Abstractions blog

Inside the Secret Math Society Known Simply as Nicolas Bourbaki

November 9, 2020

For almost a century, the anonymous members of Nicolas Bourbaki have written books intended as pure expressions of mathematical thought.

Illustration showing a large multicolored graph on top and a smaller one below, which is rising and growing bigger
combinatorics

Disorder Persists in Larger Graphs, New Math Proof Finds

November 4, 2020

David Conlon and Asaf Ferber have raised the lower bound for multicolor “Ramsey numbers,” which quantify how big graphs can get before patterns inevitably emerge.

Illustration of researchers building and writing a digital library, which helps a humanoid robot do advanced math
foundations of mathematics

Building the Mathematical Library of the Future

October 1, 2020

A small community of mathematicians is using a software program called Lean to build a new digital repository. They hope it represents the future of their field.

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.

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.