AMS Notices Spotlight October 2017

Hello and welcome to the October AMS Notices Spotlight. As we are now into the swing of the busyness of the semester it is sometimes nice to take a break and think about math not related to our classes. With this in mind we encourage you to take a moment out of your busy month to peruse the October AMS Notices. There are many great articles in this month’s notices including an article on Dido’s Problem, several articles on gerrymandering and many accessible articles in the Graduate student section. In addition to the great articles, there are links to the Joint Mathematical Meetings at the top of the page. This month’s featured article is an article in the graduate student section in regard to gerrymandering.

The spotlight this month discusses an article entitled, “Gerrymandering, Sandwiches and Topology” written by Pablo Soberón. This article is particularly interesting as just last week the Supreme Court heard a case regarding gerrymandering in Wisconsin. Recall that gerrymandering refers the process of drawing congressional districts in such a way that the “dominant” political party will win in a majority of the districts. There are many mathematical articles written about gerrymandering that discuss different ways in which mathematical formulas can be used to create a “fair” political map. The article in the Notices has a different take and shows that there are also mathematical theorems that can be used to create an “unfair” map that fits all criteria that are in place to help avoid gerrymandering. The article discusses three well known algebraic topology results including the so-called ham sandwich theorem. The author presents proofs of these results in a very accessible manner so even a graduate student with little background in algebraic topology can understand. In addition, the author shows how, when using these three theorems, we can still create a division of a state that the dominant political party will win. We encourage you to take a moment out of the busy time of the semester to read this article, or if not this one find an article that strikes your fancy. Until next time, enjoy your semester and tune in in a couple of weeks for the next AMS Notices Spotlight.

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