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applied math

Harvard professor L. Mahadevan stands in a slightly cluttered office, holding an apple and a jar containing a miniature brain
Q&A

A Scientist Who Delights in the Mundane

October 26, 2020

From crumpled paper to termite mounds to three-sided coins, L. Mahadevan has turned the whole world into his laboratory.

Photo of emperor penguins huddling together for warmth, with two sticking their heads out
Abstractions blog

Math of the Penguins

August 17, 2020

Emperor penguins display rigorously geometric spacing and mathematical efficiency when they huddle together for warmth, which may reveal secrets to their overall health.

Destruction from 1999 Taiwan earthquake.
Abstractions blog

New Earthquake Math Predicts How Destructive They’ll Be

April 21, 2020

The “pinball” model of a slipping fault line borrows from the mathematics of avalanches.

Photo of Ronald Rivest sitting in his office
Q&A

Cryptography Pioneer Seeks Secure Elections the Low-Tech Way

March 12, 2020

Ronald Rivest helped come up with the RSA algorithm, which safeguards online commerce. Now he’s hoping to make democratic elections more trustworthy.

Multimedia

The Map of Mathematics

February 13, 2020

Explore our surprisingly simple, absurdly ambitious and necessarily incomplete guide to the boundless mathematical universe.

A rogue wave and a sailboat.
fluid dynamics

The Grand Unified Theory of Rogue Waves

February 5, 2020

Rogue waves — enigmatic giants of the sea — were thought to be caused by two different mechanisms. But a new idea that borrows from the hinterlands of probability theory has the potential to predict them all.

Art for "A Math Theory for Why People Hallucinate"
neuroscience

A Math Theory for Why People Hallucinate

July 30, 2018

Psychedelic drugs can trigger characteristic hallucinations, which have long been thought to hold clues about the brain’s circuitry. After nearly a century of study, a possible explanation is crystallizing.

Art for "A Classical Math Problem Gets Pulled Into the Modern World"
algorithms

A Classical Math Problem Gets Pulled Into the Modern World

May 23, 2018

A century ago, the great mathematician David Hilbert posed a probing question in pure mathematics. A recent advance in optimization theory is bringing Hilbert’s work into a world of self-driving cars.

Gerrymandering illustration by Scott Martin for Quanta Magazine
Quantized Academy

The Math Behind Gerrymandering and Wasted Votes

October 12, 2017

Simple math can help scheming politicians manipulate district maps and cruise to victory. But it can also help identify and fix the problem.