I am often asked what kinds of careers can a mathematician construct for themselves. There are many answers to this question, and in full generality, the list is long and very diverse. However, I recently found a new one: Professional American football player!!

It seems that our very own John Urschel, a guard of the Baltimore Ravens ("our very own" because we are here in Baltimore after all), is a mathematician whose recent paper "A Cascadic Multigrid Algorithm for Computing the Fielder Vector of Graph Laplacians” has been accepted for publication in the Journal of Computational Mathematics. Mr. Urschel received his Masters Degree in Mathematics from Penn State and was drafted by the Ravens last year.

One can find mathematicians in the oddest of places, no? One just has to look carefully....

...although in this case, it is not hard to see. Mr. Urschel's is on Twitter. His name??

....@MathMeetsFball

## Tuesday, March 24, 2015

## Tuesday, March 10, 2015

### Math in the Media: Gender Bias in Teachers?

Yes, it does take a village to raise a child.... (H/T to The Honorable Hillary Rodham Clinton.) But it seems it also takes a village to discourage girls from achieving their full potential in math and math-related fields.... (Sigh!)

In a new study, headed by Edith Sand, an economist at the Bank of Israel and an instructor at the Tel-Aviv University’s Berglas School of Economics, teachers themselves contribute to the problem of too many female students shying away from higher-level math courses as they progress in their education. The study found a gender bias in performance evaluation; Teachers who knew the identities of their students tended to grade girls more harshly and boys less so on exams than teachers who did not have any information about the students. Unconscious or not, our influence as teachers on students always goes far beyond the content of our lectures and exercises. But this influence may not always be constructive. What care we need to always take....

The article, reported by Linda Carroll for Today, is here:

Depressing...? Yes. Hopeful? Also. Knowing of an unconscious bias can contribute to its cure, eh?

Remember School House Rock? "Knowledge is Power"

In a new study, headed by Edith Sand, an economist at the Bank of Israel and an instructor at the Tel-Aviv University’s Berglas School of Economics, teachers themselves contribute to the problem of too many female students shying away from higher-level math courses as they progress in their education. The study found a gender bias in performance evaluation; Teachers who knew the identities of their students tended to grade girls more harshly and boys less so on exams than teachers who did not have any information about the students. Unconscious or not, our influence as teachers on students always goes far beyond the content of our lectures and exercises. But this influence may not always be constructive. What care we need to always take....

The article, reported by Linda Carroll for Today, is here:

Teacher Bias May Help Discourage Girls from Math, Study FindsThe study is published by the National Bureau of Economic Research in Cambridge, Mass.

Depressing...? Yes. Hopeful? Also. Knowing of an unconscious bias can contribute to its cure, eh?

Remember School House Rock? "Knowledge is Power"

## Wednesday, March 4, 2015

### Math in the Media: Homer vs. Pierre?

I just had the pleasure of watching a neat 8 minute video detailing some of the mathematics injected in to the Simpsons animations. Apparently, there are mathematicians among the creative staff who cannot help themselves throwing in a little math humor into the background every so often.

The video, listed here on YouTube by Numberphile is titled

The video, listed here on YouTube by Numberphile is titled

Do give it a watch. It is always good to know where the subliminal messages about how cool math really is are lurking, no?## Homer Simpson vs Pierre de Fermat

## Wednesday, February 11, 2015

### What is Mathematics? Passages....

So I was asked during the break between the semesters to take part in an Intersession course designed to bridge the void between the sciences and the humanities (mind the gap!) by having professors from all stripes discuss common topics to a diverse audience. The idea is that each professor sees the topic from the perspective of their chosen field and the same topic often looks quite different to different people. It is a wonderful idea hatched and developed by Dr. Kristin Cook-Gailloud, the Director of the Program in French Language and Culture here at Hopkins. This is the second year running this course and I thoroughly endorse it. Alas, due to scheduling issues, I did not participate this year. But a topic in this year's course, Passages, stuck in my head. The idea of movement from one state to another is something innate to a mathematician, if regarded as movement from a state of ignorance and confusion to clarity and enlightenment.

So I wrote an essay to clarify my idea of passage in mathematics. It is here:

So I wrote an essay to clarify my idea of passage in mathematics. It is here:

Enjoy and do let me know what you think....## Passages in Mathematics

## Wednesday, February 4, 2015

### Math in the Media: Stereotype Threat?

How often we are in Mathematics faced with the fact that our profession was, and still is, quite female-starved; that boys and men are thought to be better at math than girls and women (an amazingly ridiculous thought, given my view up here!). So many recent studies seem to point decidedly at the dangerous effects of a person's perceptions of ability at the moment of evaluation and how easily they can affect performance. For example, reminding students of a stereotype they conform to just before taking a math test tends to degrade performance. This slow drip of research exposing the damaging effects of culture bias and preconceptions on lack of ability can only have a good effect in the long run. And I do see here at Hopkins some light in the form of a general welcoming attitude and positive outreach to students studying higher mathematics regardless of gender. But it does seem that this huge ship turns only very slowly.

Over at the online newspaper, the Huffington Post, Cailin O’Connor, a Professor of the Philosophy of Science at the University of California, Irvine, details some of the evidence that runs contrary to the notion of an innate gender bias in mathematical ability here:

I agree, but still love seeing the rising tide of evidence condemning the idea that math is more a male thing. Geez!

Over at the online newspaper, the Huffington Post, Cailin O’Connor, a Professor of the Philosophy of Science at the University of California, Irvine, details some of the evidence that runs contrary to the notion of an innate gender bias in mathematical ability here:

Her take? Perhaps it is time to stop focusing on looking for innate differences between the genders in mathematical ability and start simply addressing the cultural barriers that keep the gender balances way too tilted to one side.Are Women Worse at Math? It's Time to Stop Asking

I agree, but still love seeing the rising tide of evidence condemning the idea that math is more a male thing. Geez!

## Monday, December 22, 2014

### Math in the Media: Prime Gaps....

I am always amazed at how some of the most vexing, curious and fascinating puzzles in mathematics can be stated so simply, even as they evade solution or even complete understanding for centuries. It is one of the more alluring aspects of this trade.

Here's one: Just how big can the gaps between consecutive pairs of prime numbers get as one traverses the natural numbers out toward infinity?

One would expect the gaps to get larger and larger and also tend toward infinity in the long run, no? But showing this, and providing some sort of measure of the growth of the size of the gaps as one goes "out there" has been remarkably elusive.

I'll let you read this nice article by Erica Klarreich in Quanta Magazine, to "see" that progress has recently been made, and there is promise of more progress coming.

Here's one: Just how big can the gaps between consecutive pairs of prime numbers get as one traverses the natural numbers out toward infinity?

One would expect the gaps to get larger and larger and also tend toward infinity in the long run, no? But showing this, and providing some sort of measure of the growth of the size of the gaps as one goes "out there" has been remarkably elusive.

I'll let you read this nice article by Erica Klarreich in Quanta Magazine, to "see" that progress has recently been made, and there is promise of more progress coming.

Will math ever cease to amaze....Mathematicians Make a Major Discovery About Prime Numbers

## Wednesday, December 3, 2014

### Math in the Media: Mathematics is Evil?

There is an old saying (really, I just made this up): If you are looking for immortality, you have two choices. Become famous, or become infamous. Either way, you will not soon be forgotten....

A professor here is uncovering an interesting conjecture. The fictitious, evil mastermind and arch-nemesis of Sherlock Holmes, Professor James Moriarity, was modeled by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle on a mathematics professor here at Hopkins. The similarities are quite striking, detailed here by current professor Carl McTague

A professor here is uncovering an interesting conjecture. The fictitious, evil mastermind and arch-nemesis of Sherlock Holmes, Professor James Moriarity, was modeled by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle on a mathematics professor here at Hopkins. The similarities are quite striking, detailed here by current professor Carl McTague

Give it a read. Nice idea, eh?## Moriarity at Hopkins

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