Physicists avoid highly mathematical work despite being trained in advanced mathematics, new research suggests.

The study, published in the New Journal of Physics, shows that physicists pay less attention to theories that are crammed with mathematical details. This suggests there are real and widespread barriers to communicating mathematical work, and that this is not because of poor training in mathematical skills, or because there is a social stigma about doing well in mathematics.(more…)

Bubble baths and soapy dishwater, the refreshing head on a beer and the luscious froth on a cappuccino. All are foams, beautiful yet ephemeral as the bubbles pop one by one. Now, two researchers from the Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and the University of California, Berkeley have described mathematically the successive stages in the complex evolution and disappearance of foamy bubbles, a feat that could help in modeling industrial processes in which liquids mix or in the formation of solid foams such as those used to cushion bicycle helmets. (more…)

Quiz: This beautiful mind was promoting game theory long before Cold War think tanks used mathematics to understand strategic maneuvering. Plotting, as a result, has never been the same.

Is it John Nash, the Nobel Prize–winning mathematician portrayed in a 2001 Oscar-winning biopic? John von Neumann, game theory’s founding father? Go back further, much further, urges a UCLA game theory expert and fan of 19th-century novelist Jane Austen. (more…)

The UA’s Chris Impey has taught cosmology to Tibetan Buddhist monastics in remote parts of India each summer for the past five years. With a grant from the John Templeton Foundation, he detailed his experiences in a book, “Humble Before the Void,” which likely will publish in 2014.

Chris Impey thinks back to the time he spent living on the edge of Tibetan Buddhist monasteries, teaching modern cosmology to Buddhist monastics in India: “On a typical day, they would be up at 5 a.m. and have prayed for a few hours or done meditation before you even see them. And their attention is just as good at the end of a long day as at the beginning.” (more…)

Is the inaugural poem a new sub-genre of poetry? According to two practitioners of the form, the answer might be “yes.”

Poet Richard Blanco and Yale professor Elizabeth Alexander, two of only five poets in history to have created works for a presidential inauguration, came together on Feb. 5 for a poetry reading and dialogue about their unique shared experience. Blanco read his work “One Today” at President Barack Obama’s second inauguration, while Alexander read her “Praise Song for the Day” at Obama’s first. Their discussion was hosted by Ezra Stiles College master Stephen Pitti. (more…)

In awarding Yale’s George Daniel Mostow its 2013 Wolf Foundation Prize in mathematics — one of the field’s premier global awards — the foundation offered this crisp assessment: “Few mathematicians,” it said, “can compete with the breadth, depth, and originality of his works.”

Here Mostow, an emeritus professor since 1998, talks about the English teacher who led him to a life in math, the pleasure of family, high-definition opera, and the Nth dimension — as well as the “eureka!” moment at a New Haven stoplight that secured him a place in the history of geometry.

When did it dawn on you that you wanted to be a professional mathematician?

In high school, mathematics was my favorite subject. I especially enjoyed challenging problems. But I did not know that mathematics was a profession. I am indebted to my high school English teacher who, in my senior year, called me up to his desk to ask about my career plans, and told me that his brother was a mathematician. I decided then and there that mathematics was for me.(more…)

What if the Ph.D. research becomes too complex for words? Dozens of candidates turned to the language of dance in the fifth annual national contest sponsored by Science Magazine. Diana Davis, a graduate student in mathematics, won the first-ever “Dance Your Ph.D.” prize in pure mathematics.

Math graduate student Diana Davis studies the symbolic dynamics that arise from cutting sequences on Veech surfaces and Bouw-Möller surfaces.

No idea what that means? It’s OK. She can show you. (more…)

To determine how crowd behavior emerges from individual actions, William Warren, professor of cognitive, linguistic, and psychological sciences, assembled his own crowds and engaged them in an unusual four-day experiment in Sayles Hall. The subjects were equipped with motion capture markers affixed like antennae to bike helmets.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — What must the staid-faced University luminaries in those portraits around Sayles Hall have thought while they watched this scene play out for four days last week? Over and over, two to 20 young men and women in bike helmets adorned with what appeared to be five large antennae walked back and forth across a cardboard-covered floor. En route to goals marked by numbers just beneath the portraits, they dodged each other and arrangements of cardboard pillars. Each time they generated patterns of foot traffic. (more…)