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Dictionary of Mathematical Eponymy: Osborn’s Law

Today’s entry in the Dictionary of Mathematical Eponymy is, by some distance, the entry that’s been most useful to me since I learned about it. (The Elo rating is probably in second place.) It’s also a unique entry in that I have next to no information about its originator. What

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Dictionary of Mathematical Eponymy: Noether’s Theorem

We’ve just reached the halfway point of the Dictionary of Mathematical Eponymy project, and it’s time for a fairly famous one (and again, one I’ve been meaning to understand better). What is Noether’s Theorem? Emmy Noether has several theorems named for her, but the first (and probably most important) can

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The Dictionary of Mathematical Eponymy: The MacWilliams Identity

After the Second World War, there was a boom in the study of transmitting encoded data. In likelihood, I imagine the boom started earlier, and the boom was more about the declassified publication of papers on this topic than about a sudden increase in productivity. This month’s mathematical hero, Jessie

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Dictionary of Mathematical Eponymy: The Kovalevskaya Top

When I was about eight, my parents bought, as a Christmas gift for my brother and me, a “Jungle Gym”, plastic tubes and connectors that fit together to make whatever the imagination came up with, a sort of large-scale Meccano. My brother went out into the garden to build castles

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Dictionary of Mathematical Eponymy: Johnson Solids

I am a big fan of polyhedra. I’ve raved elsewhere about the icosidodecahedron, and even something as dull as a cube is something I can get behind. And so, naturally, I wondered: is there a periodic table of polyhedra? And the answer is “not exactly”. But there’s something pretty close

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Dictionary of Mathematical Eponymy: Ivory’s Theorem

I… I… I… *Looks up Ito’s Lemma* *Reaches for bargepole, then doesn’t touch it.* I… I… I… Oh! It says here, there’s a thing called Ivory’s Theorem1! What is Ivory’s Theorem? Despite the main paper I could find about it calling it “the famous Ivory’s Theorem”, it was fairly tricky

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Dictionary of Mathematical Eponymy: Hoberman Sphere

What are they? I thought, until I looked closely, that we had a Hoberman sphere in the children’s toybox. We don’t: we have something closely related to it, though. The Hoberman mechanism comprises a series of pairs of pivoted struts arranged end to end. Each pair looks a little like

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The Dictionary of Mathematical Eponymy: Sophie Germain primes

What are they? A Sophie Germain prime is a prime such that $2p+1$ is also prime - for example, 23 is a Sophie Germain prime since 47 is also prime. The largest known Sophie Germain prime has close to 400,000 digits; it is conjectured that there are infinitely many such

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The Dictionary of Mathematical Eponymy: The Fermat Cubic

So far in the Dictionary of Mathematical Eponymy, I’ve not picked anyone properly famous. I mean, if you’re a keen recreational mathematician, you’ll have heard of Collatz or Banach; a serious mathematician might know about Daubechies, and a chess enthusiast would conceivably have come across Elo. But everyone has heard

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Dictionary of Mathematical Eponymy: Elo ratings

As I write this, classical chess’s top two players are Magnus Carlsen of Norway (rated 2835) and the USA’s Fabiano Caruana, who has a rating of 2832. Very close! But what do the rankings mean? FIDE1 uses the Elo rating system, a methodical - and mathematical - system for distilling

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