ABOUT Julie Rehmeyer

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is a freelance math and science writer who writes the Math Trek column at Science News (http://bit.ly/mathtrek). She also writes frequently for Discover Magazine and Wired. She studied algebraic topology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.


Julie Rehmeyer: All Posts


Voevodsky’s Mathematical Revolution

Posted 1 October 2013 by Julie Rehmeyer

On last Thursday at the Heidelberg Laureate Forum, Vladimir Voevodsky gave perhaps the most revolutionary scientific talk I’ve ever heard. I doubt if it generated much buzz among the young scientists in advance, though, because it had the inscrutable title "Univalent Foundations of Mathematics," and the abstract contained sentences like this one: “Set-theoretic approach to foundations of mathematics work well until one starts to think about categories since categories cannot be properly considered as sets with structures due to the required... Read more

A very busy man

Posted 27 September 2013 by Julie Rehmeyer

During the boat trip yesterday, I chatted briefly with Cédric Villani. The conversation was brief because he was in great demand, having arrived just the day before and leaving that evening. “Two days!” he said. “Two days is pretty good for me now, because I am so busy.” “Has it been hard to find the time to get math done since you won the Fields Medal?” I asked. “Not hard,” he said. “Impossible!” In the last three years, he said,... Read more

Assuring the integrity of voting using cryptography

Posted 26 September 2013 by Julie Rehmeyer

American voters have no way of knowing that our votes have been counted, or counted correctly. We go to the polls and we punch buttons on a screen or fill out paper ballots and put them in a box, but we don’t know if the electronic voting machine works correctly, if the ballot box made it to the election office, or if the ballots have been accurately tallied. The rise of electronic voting machines with secret, proprietary software has only... Read more

The future role of computers in mathematics

Posted 25 September 2013 by Julie Rehmeyer

At the end of the forum yesterday afternoon, the mathematics laureates took questions from the audience. One of the questions was about the role of computers in checking and generating proofs. The response of the mathematicians was mostly less than enthusiastic. Efim Zelmanov spoke up first, saying, “A proof is what is considered to be a proof by all mathematicians, so I'm pessimistic about machine-generated proofs.” He mentioned the four-color theorem, which was the first major proof to be solved... Read more


Posted 25 September 2013 by Julie Rehmeyer

Heidelberg is a gorgeous city -- ancient, beautifully built, walkable (at least this part). There's a castle up on the hill, gorgeous old buildings, and narrow streets paved with cobblestones. And whoever it was who paved these streets did it with remarkable artistry. Check it out: I particularly love this spot, because of the way the stones in the middle fit into two different arcs at once: Check out the detail around this drain! I can't quite imagine why they've... Read more

Making computers smarter, and helping deaf people too

Posted 24 September 2013 by Julie Rehmeyer

A friend of mine is very hard of hearing — not quite deaf enough to fully belong to the deaf community, but sufficiently deaf that participating in a conversation is terribly hard work for her. She does her best to put together what she can hear with what she can lip read and what she can extrapolate, and then she asks her conversational partners to repeat themselves as often as she can bear. I was shocked to hear just how... Read more

Isadore Singer

Posted 23 September 2013 by Julie Rehmeyer

I'm at the Heidelberg Laureate Forum at the moment, where they've brought 39 winners of the biggest prizes in math and computer science together with young researchers, modeled on the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings. The founder of the software giant SAP, Klaus Tschira, has started this for the first time and plans for it to be an annual event. I've been brought here to blog for them, and I must say, though being a science writer can have its challenging... Read more

The most unhelpful possible way to prove something

Posted 21 September 2013 by Julie Rehmeyer

Computer science, I think, gets even more neglected by science journalists than math does. Oh, sure, the next iPhone release gets lots of media attention, but that has little to do with how most computer scientists spend their time, and the general public rarely gets much of a view of the breadth and fascination of the field. I occasionally cover stories on the mathier edge of computer science, but I’m not deeply ensconced in the field and not always tuned... Read more