**What's Happening in the Mathematical Sciences**

Volume: 9;
2013;
127 pp;
Softcover
**Print ISBN: 978-0-8218-8739-4
Product Code: HAPPENING/9**

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# What’s Happening in the Mathematical Sciences, Volume 9

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*Dana Mackenzie*

What's Happening in the Mathematical Sciences looks at some highlights
of the most recent developments in mathematics. These include the
mathematics behind stories that made headlines, as well as fascinating
mathematical stories that never made it into the newspapers.

In 2009, a flu pandemic, the world's first in more than 40 years,
tested a new generation of mathematical models that take some of the
guesswork out of public health decisions. As health officials rushed
to quell the outbreak of H1N1 flu, mathematicians were working just as
hurriedly to answer questions like these: Was the epidemic serious
enough to justify school closings or quarantines? Who should be
vaccinated first, the elderly or the young? Their findings
substantially affected the response of local governments, national
governments, and the World Health Organization.

Mathematics can also help society prepare for other kinds of
natural and manmade disasters. A major tsunami in 2011 in Japan, like
the one seven years earlier in the Indian Ocean, highlighted flaws in
our understanding of these catastrophic events and inadequacies in our
early warning systems. Geoscientists are working together with
mathematicians to improve our short-term forecasting ability and
quantify the long-term risks of tsunamis. Meanwhile, in California,
another group of mathematicians succeeded in adapting earthquake
prediction algorithms to forecast criminal activity. Their “predictive
policing” software was tested in Los Angeles and is being adopted by
other cities across the United States.

Fortunately, not all mathematics has to do with emergencies. Pure
mathematicians have been busy cleaning out their closets of
long-standing open problems. In 2012, two conjectures about different
kinds of minimizing surfaces were solved: the Willmore Conjecture
(minimizing energy) and the Lawson Conjecture (minimizing area). Also
in 2012, following up on the extraordinary proofs of the
Poincaré Conjecture and Thurston's Geometrization Conjecture,
topologists proved a collection of conjectures that ensure that
three-dimensional spaces can all be constructed in a uniform way.
Meanwhile, for the last ten years, a new way of understanding
algebraic curves and surfaces has developed, leading to a subject now
known as tropical geometry. With the new ideas, certain hard problems
in algebraic geometry suddenly become easy and certain
“mathematical mysteries” of string theory begin to make
sense.

In physics, the nine-billion-dollar search for the elusive Higgs
boson finally bagged its quarry in 2012. This discovery, one of the
most widely publicized science stories of the year, provides
experimental evidence for the “Higgs mechanism,” a nearly
50-year-old mathematical argument that explains how certain subatomic
particles acquire mass.

Rounding out this volume are chapters on a new statistical
technique called topic modeling, which is breaking down the academic
barriers between math and the humanities, and new discoveries about
mathematicians' (and a lot of other people's) favorite toy: the
Rubik's Cube.

#### Table of Contents

# Table of Contents

## What's Happening in the Mathematical Sciences, Volume 9

#### Readership

General mathematical audience.