Mathematics Awareness Month April 2005

March 1, 2005

Each year, the Joint Policy Board for Mathematics sponsors Mathematics Awareness Month. To recognize the importance of mathematics, a series of articles and an accompanying poster highlight mathematical developments and applications in a particular area. The theme for 2005 is Mathematics and the Cosmos. From the announcement:

"Mathematics is at the core of our attempts to understand the universe at every level---from the most theoretical to the most mundane. Modern cosmology is based on the ideas of Riemann regarding the nature of space, along with the notion of curved spaces of three and more dimensions, adapted by Einstein to four-dimensional space time, and encapsulated in Einstein's fundamental insight that gravity is geometry. From this, and his justly famous field equations, Einstein deduced on theoretical grounds the bending of light as it passes a massive object, the precise amount of precession of Mercury's perihelion, the expansion of the universe, the existence of black holes, the behavior of binary stars, and the existence of gravitational waves---all of which led to experiments to confirm their validity.

"In cases not subject to direct experimentation, other mathematical methods are vital for carrying out simulations of the motions within galaxies and star clusters, the collision of galaxies and black holes, and other large-scale gravitational interactions. At the level of the solar system, the mathematical methods initiated by Newton and continually elaborated over the ensuing centuries have explained or predicted the action of the tides, the bulge of the earth around the equator, the existence of previously unknown planets, the orbits and return times of comets, and just in the past decade, the existence of planets orbiting other stars.

"In the realm of practical space exploration, mathematical techniques allow the planning of efficient trajectories to reach the moon, Mars, and the outer planets and the means to communicate with the satellites and vehicles on those trajectories---for both navigation and for the encoding, compression, and transmission of images across many hundreds of millions of miles of space. Examples of this are the recent spectacular photographs from the Cassini mission to Saturn."

Resources for this year's Mathematics Awareness Month program---including five theme essays, a sample press release, tips for getting media coverage and for hosting outreach activities, and a downloadable poster---can be found at The Right Spin, a DVD featuring astronaut Michael Foale, will also be available for limited distribution in mid-March.

The theme essays are

The American Mathematical Society, the American Statistical Association, the Mathematical Association of America, and SIAM, the member organizations of the Joint Policy Board for Mathematics, support MAM activities.


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