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An illustration of a mathematician staring up at an infinite pile of cubes of varying sizes and colors.
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Why the Sum of Three Cubes Is a Hard Math Problem

November 5, 2019

Looking for answers in infinite space is hard. High school math can help narrow your search.

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Why I Called It ‘Quantum Supremacy’

October 2, 2019

Researchers finally seem to have a quantum computer that can outperform a classical computer. But what does that really mean?

Two competitors are racing to solve the multiplication problem 25 times 63 in two separate lanes of a running track. One competitor is using the standard multiplication algorithm while the other is using Karatsuba method.
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On Your Mark, Get Set, Multiply

September 23, 2019

The way you learned to multiply works, but computers employ a faster algorithm.

An illustration of a pink hand reaching for quantum dice.
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Where Quantum Probability Comes From

September 9, 2019

There are many different ways to think about probability. Quantum mechanics embodies them all.

Nelson, wearing hiking gear, smiles at the camera at the top of a rocky outcrop.
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Ann Nelson Took On the Biggest Problems in Physics

August 22, 2019

The theoretical particle physicist Ann Nelson, who died on August 4 at age 61, was a font of brilliant ideas and a champion of ending discrimination in the field.

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Color Me Polynomial

August 13, 2019

Polynomials aren’t just exercises in abstraction. They’re good at illuminating structure in surprising places.

Illustration of Fermat's Last Theorem
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Why the Proof of Fermat’s Last Theorem Doesn’t Need to Be Enhanced

June 3, 2019

Decades after the landmark proof of Fermat’s Last Theorem, ideas abound for how to make it even more reliable. But such efforts reflect a deep misunderstanding of what makes the proof so important.

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How Geometry, Data and Neighbors Predict Your Favorite Movies

May 22, 2019

A little high school geometry can help you understand the basic math behind movie recommendation engines.

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The Subtle Art of the Mathematical Conjecture

May 7, 2019

It’s an educated guess, not a proof. But a good conjecture will guide math forward, pointing the way into the mathematical unknown.


A regular column in which top researchers explore the process of discovery.