Someone who really knows this stuff reviews Arnold Schwarzenegger’s State of the State speech.
Speaking of the Riemann Hypothesis (see below), it keeps cropping up in my reading.
That’s not surprising in The Music of the Primes, which is largely about the hypothesis. But I didn’t expect to be re-immersed in prime numbers when I read The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, Mark Haddon’s Whitbread Prize winning novel. The narrator and central character, Christopher, has Asperger’s Syndrome and is incapable of empathy. He’s also a brilliant teenage mathematician and particularly interested in prime numbers.
The chapters of the book are numbered in consecutive primes. The only other book I can recall with unconventional chapter numbering is the wonderful Brilliant Orange, which is about the genius of Dutch football. Chapter numbers in that are like the fluid movement of the Cruyff-era Dutch teams, where a number 2 may well end up where a number 9 should be.
Not incidentally, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time is the first book in years that I literally could not put down. I started reading it after the kids’ baths and, other than a brief pause for dinner, kept reading until I’d finished at 11.30 last night. A thoroughly original, absorbing wonderfully written book.
The Guardian plumps for 10 scientific advances in the coming year, and 10 things we still won’t know.
There’s not much equivalence between the two lists. The advances are generally incremental and unlikely to get many pulses racing, while the “failures” would be huge discoveries, like a solution to the Riemann Hypothesis, quantum computing and viable nuclear fusion.
There is a likelihood, unmentioned, that startling and important discoveries will be made in 2004. But there is a near certainty that it will take years or decades for most of to recognise the importance of what is being discovered today.
An exaggeration from Philip Greenspun, but an important point (so long as you ignore his currency nonsense at the end of the post): “A country that has collected all of the world’s smartest people should always be able to do something new, interesting, and profitable.”