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Contents of the January/February 1997 issue of Quantum


Feature articles

Questioning Answers

by Barry Mazur

When we have solved a problem, we usually kick up our heels and relax. But if we really want to find something new, we should question our answer—that’s when things really get interesting! This article is a case in point.


Wobbling Nuclear Drops

by Yuly Bruk, Maxim Zelnikov, and Albert Stasenko

We usually don’t think of an atom’s nucleus being anything like an ordinary drop of water. Yet the liquid-drop model is used in physics to describe nuclear oscillations.


A Revolution Absorbed

by E. B. Vinberg

It took two thousand years for mathematicians to realize that there are more kinds of geometry than the one worked out by Euclid. It took less than two hundred for the non-Euclidean revolution of Gauss, Lobachevsky, and Bolyai to be absorbed into the mathematical mainstream.


Below Absolute Zero

by Henry D. Schreiber

They say you couldn’t get there if you tried. But maybe if you didn’t try so hard, or came at it from a different direction …


Departments

In the Lab: The “Water Worm”

by M. Golovey

Galileo borrowed an idea from Archimedes and designed a bizarre but effective pump. (The article shows how to make a model of the “water worm” at home.)

Illustration by V. Ivanyuk

Cowculations: Superprime Beef

by Dr. Mu

Farmer Paul affectionately calls his best cows his “superprime beef.” (A superprime is any prime number that remains a prime when any number of digits are deleted from the right side of the number—for example, 5939333.) How many superprimes are available for Farmer Paul to use in branding his outstanding heifers?


Kaleidoscope: Combs and coulombs

A look at electricity by way of the French physicist who discovered it’s first and most fundamental law, replete with questions to ponder and interesting facts to appreciate.


Physics Contest: Do You Promise Not to Tell?

by Arthur Eisenkraft and Larry D. Kirkpatrick

Devising a peculiar kind of electronic encryption by means of “destructive” and “constructive” interference (or nodes and antinodes).


At the Blackboard I: From a Roman Myth to the Isoperimetric Problem

by I. F. Sharygin

In Roman mythology, Dido was offered as much land as a bull skin covered. She cleverly cut the skin into several long strips and used them to fence in a large plot. This tale serves as the jumping off point for a discussion of a straightforward problem with an intimidating name.


Math Investigations: Revisiting the N-cluster Problem

by George Berzsenyi

A new research challenge from Dr. Berzsenyi, a longtime proponent of mathematical problem solving and the head of the math department at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Terre Haute, Indiana.


At the Blackboard II: The First Bicycle

by Albert Stasenko

You will scour all the standard reference books in vain for any mention of “the great inventor Nga-Nga,” who (the author asserts) invented the first bicycle. Each wheel consisted of two sticks lashed together. Needless to say, the ride was a bit rough …


In the Open Air: The Green Flash

by Lev Tarasov

The physics behind a beautiful but rare atmospheric phenomenon.


How Do You Figure?: Challenges in Physics and Math


Brainteasers: Just for the Fun of It!

Check out this sample!


Happenings

The Quantum Bulletin Board.


Crisscross Science

Scientific crossword puzzle.


Answers, Hints & Solutions


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