If you look closely, you’ll see shoutout’s to Blog favorites like the Euler Characteristic, Euler’s Formula, and the Königsberg Bridges Problem (which was when Euler simultaneously invented topology and graph theory!).
We told you in November about freedom fighter Supap Kirtsaeng. He made a tidy profit reselling international edtions of textbooks on eBay. Since they are sold in his home country of Thailand for much cheaper than even the used price here in the US, he was able to make big bucks while saving students equally big bucks.
Not surprisingly, the publishers took umbrage and went after Kirtsaeng in the courts. Here things get muddled. On the one hand, the publishers said that by buying an international edition you were agreeing to their stated policy that the books wouldn’t be sold in the US. on the other hand, US law has a policy of “first sale”: once you buy something, it’s yours to do with as you like and the seller doesn’t have any say in it*.
It went all the way to the Supreme Court and they just announced their ruling. From Justice Breyer writes for the majority:
…we ask whether the “first sale” doctrine applies to protect a buyer or other lawful owner of a copy (of a copyrighted work) lawfully manufactured abroad. Can that buyer bring that copy into the United States (and sell it or give it away) without obtaining permission to do so from the copyright owner? Can, for example, someone who purchases, say at a used bookstore, a book printed abroad subsequently resell it without the copyright owner’s permission?
In our view, the answers to these questions are, yes.
– From the Supreme Court’s ruling
* “But wait, what about computer software? Does this mean I can sell my Apple software?” Nope. Software (exactly to avoid the “first sale” rule) is not “sold”. You usually buy a license to use the software, but don’t actually own the software. Tricky software people!
We are very happy to let you know that Pierre Deligne was awarded the 2013 Abel Prize. As we mentioned a few years ago, has quickly become one of the most prestigious awards in mathematics. It’s given to people who have had a long career of deep, important, and influential research.
Unfortunately, unlike last year’s winner Endre Szemerédi, Deligne’s research is not as easy to explain to people. Fortunately, Tim Gowers has again done a great job of providing us with an easy to read essay about the Abel Prizewinner’s research for nonexperts. You can find a link to it here on his blog. We do have to quote his opening paragraph, though:
Pierre Deligne is indisputably one of the world’s greatest mathematicians. He has received many major awards, including the Fields Medal in 1978, the Crafoord Prize in 1988, the Balzan Prize in 2004, and the Wolf Prize in 2008. While one never knows who will win the Abel Prize in any given year, it was virtually inevitable that Deligne would win it in due course, so today’s announcement is about as small a surprise as such announcements can be.
– From Dr. Gower’s Abel Prize essay on Deligne
Because of his many important contributions to math, in 2006 the king of Belgium (Deligne’s home country) made Deligne a viscount. Deligne designed his own coat of arms:
The Simons Foundation has a nice biographical essay about Deligne. They also have a video interview with him where discusses his earliest mathematical memories. And, of course, slashdot gives it’s usual incisive analysis .
Happy Pi Day!
Friend of the Blog and former OU faculty member, Steven Spallone, is now a faculty member at the Indian Institue of Science and Education in Pune, India. Those who know of Steven’s other life as a world famous YJogi won’t be surprised that not only is he living in India and doing mathematics, but he is the co-organizer (with Neha Prabhu) of a a Pi Day version of “The Life of Pi”.
Lest you think this just some class project, we point your attention to coverage by the Indian Express newspaper.
Ironically, Steven is an avowed Tauist. Hey, Steven should write a book called “The Tau of Pi” (trademark! ).
Dr. Jablonski let us know that the Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search (GIMPS) project has just announced the discovery of the largest known prime number. Remember, a Marsenne Prime is a prime number which can be written as . The GIMPS is a group of volunteers (you too can be one!) who test numbers of that form looking for larger and larger primes. Mostly for fun, but the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), is offering a $150,000 prize for the first prime with 100 million digits and $250,000 for the first prime with 1 billion digits! Here’s a link to their prize page.
In case you want to check it at home, it is
But we should warn you that it has no less than 17,425,170 digits. To see the whole number click here. To get an idea of how big that number is (and to disabuse you of the notion that you’ll print it out in the computer lab), if you were to print it out in 12 point font on standard 8 1/2 by 11 sheets of paper, it would run to 5,000 pages!
We also have some “middle America” pride that this Mersenne Prime was found by Dr. Curtis Cooper, a professor at the University of Central Missouri. It should be noted that you don’t need to be a professor to be a part of the GIMPS project, all you need is a computer!
The Internet being interested in all things, the new prime was discussed on MetaFilter. A discussion perhaps best summed up (and definitely won by) by jimmythefish’s wry comment:
I can appreciate this, and I was once again mind-boggled the other day when looking at a comparative illustration between planets in our solar system and the largest stars. I am reminded that my brain is very weak.
This should not come as a surprise, however, because if you hand me a calculator I will probably spell BOOBS with it instead of doing any actual work.
Here’s a great quote:
I have had people ask me what it is like to do research in mathematics, and perhaps the answer is that it is like a snowstorm. As the snow falls, the light dims and the world goes gray. Local distinctions are lost, sharp curves disappear, and the world is made softer, quieter, and simpler. When the sun comes out, the way we see the world has been transformed to a place of startling clarity and simplicity…. The snow-covered world is an abstraction of the world that lies underneath: the details are smoothed over, the color is removed, all that is left is an essence of shape. These are the forms that one can work with. This is how the mathematician thinks. This is what she does, in her minds eye, to the world around her.
– from Gregory Buck’s essay
Or, if you’d rather think of summer, you can instead read his essay “A Mathematician Goes to the Beach” .