Like an Egyptian

How does one dance like an Egyptian? For the answer, consult the 1986 hit by The Bangles.

How does one think like an Egyptian? For that answer, ask a computer scientist.

Turns out that the ancient Egyptians and modern computers—human and machine, two thousand years apart—have something in common: math. Ancient Egyptians manipulated numbers the same way computers do—using the binary numeral system. Learn more about the math method that does away with memorization and multiplication tables.

Red Light, Green Light

Have you ever been stopped at a red light even though there isn’t a single car on the intersecting street to take advantage of the green light? If so, you’ve had firsthand experience with the glitches of top-down traffic systems.

In most cities, traffic runs on an “optimal” cycle designed to maximize the flow of traffic expected for certain times of day, such as rush hour. The problem is that this optimal condition never happens in real life. Most traffic lights run on timers that are set in advance to anticipate how many cars will be at any intersection at any point during the day. Researchers create these settings based on averages, thorough research, and years of experience. However, in real life, traffic doesn’t act how it’s “supposed to.”

That’s why researchers in Germany are taking a completely new approach to traffic control. Read the full article from ScienceNews, and see why this story made the top science news of 2010.

The Top 10 Jobs in America

3-year-olds, 13-year-olds, and 30-year-olds seem to be worlds apart, but they often ask themselves the same question: "What will I be when I grow up?"

Of course, choosing a career means something quite different to children and adults. (For a 3-year-old, choosing a job is like daydreaming, while for a 30-year-old, choosing a new career probably means midlife crisis.) However, even toddlers understand that some jobs are just more satisfying than others.

Once a year, capitalizes on this universal need for on-the-job happiness by ranking the top 200 jobs in America. This list is based on over 100 criteria, including each career’s income, stress, and hiring outlook.

The results are in for 2011, along with good news for those skilled in math.  Of the top 10 jobs in America, 7 require high-level math, with mathematician ranking as the #2 career in the country this year.  Read more about the Top 10, or see the whole Top 200.

Math with a Mind of Its Own

What makes humans human?  "Homo sapiens" literally means "knowing man" because human intelligence, or sapience, is the main factor that sets us apart from other creatures.  For thousands of years, we’ve assumed that we are the only species capable of abstract reasoning, language, and problem solving. 

Now, a highly specialized branch of math and computer science is challenging this age-old assumption, comparing humans not to other creatures but to computers.  Artificial-intelligence researchers face formidable challenges, but they’ve also made remarkable progress in recent years, including speech recognition, face recognition, and natural language processing.  Even in this recent explosion of ideas, one sector of artificial intelligence has remained seemingly off-limits:  simulating human creativity.  Enter:  Explicit-Implicit Interaction theory, the scientific dissection of the human creative process.  Read more about the new psychology theory that’s turning heads in artifical intelligence.