Monthly Archives: January 2006

Permissive Actions

Steven M. Bellovin gave a fascinating talk yesterday on a subject he knows nothing about. Okay, I should rephrase that. Bellovin knows everything you can know about his subject without actually knowing anything, but he’s careful to point out that … Continue reading

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Best Friends

Among children of a certain age, everyone has a best friend—and exactly one. Ideally, the best-friend relationship is symmetric: If I am your best friend, then you are my best friend, too. But symmetry is not guaranteed, and it can … Continue reading

Posted in problems and puzzles | 1 Comment

First Bites

In the game of Chomp, the player who moves first always has a guaranteed winning strategy. This fact might seem to take all the suspense out of the game, but it doesn’t. Except in the smallest and simplest games, no … Continue reading

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More Math Notes from San Antonio

I went to the Joint Mathematics Meetings two weeks ago with the idea that I would post reports live and on location from San Antonio. I was dazzled by the mere possibility of doing this. Sitting in a lecture hall, … Continue reading

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San Antonio: Still More Talks

Graph Limits and Graph Homomorphisms. Laszlo Lovasz (Microsoft). The field of graph theory has been transformed by recent interest in understanding properties of very large graphs, most notably those that describe communications networks such as the Internet and the Web. … Continue reading

Posted in mathematics | 1 Comment

San Antonio: Two Talks on Primes

Small Gaps between Prime Numbers: The Work of Goldston-Pintz-Yildirim. Kannan Soundarajan (University of Michigan, Ann Arbor). Soundarajan began by pointing out that it’s been quite a good millennium, so far, for work on prime numbers. In the first few years … Continue reading

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San Antonio: Alternating Subsequences

Longest alternating subsequences of permutations. Richard P. Stanley (MIT). In the past decade or so, there’s been a surprisingly big fuss over what might seem to be a very small question: What is the distribution of the longest increasing subsequence … Continue reading

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From the Lonely Star State

“It would have been a very enjoyable ride altogether, that evening’s spin along the banks of the Rhine, if I had not been haunted at the time by the idea that I should have to write an account of it … Continue reading

Posted in mathematics | 1 Comment

Now boarding row N

I am at gate C21 at Houston Intercontinental, en route to San Antonio. The flight is late and overbooked; there’s a crowd of hopeful standbys at the podium. The first-class plutocrats are already aboard, and now the rest of us … Continue reading

Posted in modern life | 2 Comments

Quote

Ask any molecule what it thinks about the second law of thermodynamics and it will laugh at the question. All the same the molecules, collectively, uphold the second law. —John Archibald Wheeler, At Home in the Universe, 1994, p. 283.

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