To those of us who can’t tell a hypotenuse from a rhombus, the phrase “math journalism” sounds like an oxymoron. It brings to mind boring pedants like Martin Gardner, Sara Robinson, and Brian Hayes, who make everything seem confusing and complicated, and who won’t even write a single word without consulting two dozen “experts.” But today, a new breed of journalist is bringing math directly to the people — and they’re doing it with flair, pizzazz, and an eye for the all-too-neglected human side.
That’s why I’m proud to announce Shtetl-Optimized‘s semiregular Math Journalism Award, intended to recognize those journalists who make fractions, long division, and other topics of current research seem “as easy as pi” even to those of us who can’t balance our checkbooks and never did get algebra. The inaugural award goes to Ben Moore of the BBC, for his fascinating report about a maverick professor who’s solved a problem that befuddled Newton and Pythagoras over 1,200 years ago — not to mention millions of students since! The problem: what happens when you divide by zero?
Feel free to nominate other journalists for this prestigious award. (Hat tip for this one goes to my brother David.)