Microsoft Excel is the back of the envelope for the modern problem solver. If a problem can't be solved in a few cells and perhaps a pivot table, then perhaps it's a problem best left alone — or left for the mathematicians in any case.
As such, recent news of a calculation bug in Excel 2007 has caused quite a stir.
In a blog post, Microsoft employee David Gainer reported that there are occasions where, when the result of a multiplication should be 65535, Excel instead displays 100000 as the answer.
You can try this yourself. Multiply 77.1 by 850, 10.2 by 6425 and 20.4 by 3212.5.
"Further testing showed a similar phenomenon with 65,536 as well," Gainer blogged.
According to Gainer, Excel gets the calculation correct but does not display it. The bug is limited to six numbers from 65,534.99999999995 to 65,535, and six numbers from 65,535.99999999995 to 65,536.
Microsoft have released a hotfix for the problem that can be downloaded and it will be included in the the first service pack update of the program.
Dan B, a Microsoft employee, commented on the Microsoft blog that:
"We're not planning to share details on this beyond what we've already communicated — i.e. that the issue occurred in formatting of floating point numbers near 65,565 and 65,536. It was code that we introduced as part of the calculation overhaul that we did for Excel 2007 however."
The problem seems to be an error in the 64-bit floating-point to string conversion routine. You can read more about this on the Microsoft blog.
For more clear details about this Bug, I can refer you a link which would give details about this bug, which is by the head of Microsoft Ireland.
The Industrial Mathematics Internship, a joint program run by The Smith Institute and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), was launched at the Institute of Engineering and Technology (IET) on the 18th of September 2007.
The Internship is a way for companies and university research groups to promote direct knowledge exchange and develop long-term working relationships through engaging a dedicated postgraduate researcher to work on a specific industrial project over a period of 3 to 6 months.
The Smith Institute manages the Knowledge Transfer Network for Industrial Mathematics (KTN) and hopes that the program will inject fresh energy into UK businesses by bringing cutting-edge techniques to business innovation and by developing long-term working relationships between companies and universities.
Each Internship is a collaboration between a host company, an intern, and a research group within a university. Industrialists can improve existing, or develop new, operations through the impact of mathematical expertise. Universities can grow new industrial collaborations and relationships, whilst interns can gain first-hand experience of the business environment.
A pilot phase of the initiative will run between September 2007 and August 2008 and will establish 6 Internships. Each Internship will last between 3 and 6 months and will be supported by one of the KTN's Technology Translators, who will assist in establishing the projects, building the relationships, exploiting follow-on opportunities and disseminating a final case study through the
industrial mathematics community.
Dr Tim Bradshaw, Head of Innovation, Science and Technology at the CBI, said, "The Industrial Mathematics Internships programme is an excellent example of how business and universities can collaborate for mutual benefit — helping businesses become more innovative and successful by making effective use of skills and knowledge developed in universities while at the same time providing extremely
valuable experience for postgraduate researchers. The critical component is that researchers will work on finding solutions to real business problems, something for which the Smith Institute already has an excellent reputation."
Further details on Industrial Mathematics Internships can be found on the KTN web site.
If you would like to apply for an Internships or simply discuss a project idea, please contact Dr Claudia Centazzo at the Smith Institute.
You can also visit the blog by Trevor Maynard from Lloyd's Exposure Management.
$3.2 million Cash Injection for Australian Mathematics
Leaders of Australia's mathematical sciences community today welcomed the announcement of a major Collaboration and Structural Reform grant to the Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute (AMSI). AMSI Director, Professor Philip Broadbridge, said: "AMSI has established a unique collaborative venture. This grant will enable us to continue to grow and expand our programs that are critical to
industry, innovation and product quality. "Maintaining capacity for innovation and research is dependent on building Australia's base in mathematics and statistics which has been declining for some time," Professor Broadbridge added. Dr Jim Lewis, Chair of the AMSI Board, said he was delighted with the news. "As a former senior executive in the resources industry, I am very conscious of the value
of mathematics to the mining and manufacturing industry. Australian education, research and industry need AMSI and the superb expertise it brings together in its ventures. This support is most welcome acknowledgment of the important role mathematics plays in own right and as a foundation enabling discipline." Chairman of the National Strategic Review of Mathematical Sciences Research Working
Party, Professor Hyam Rubinstein, also welcomed the news. "We found overwhelming support for AMSI during the Review and funding for it was one of our two priorities," said Professor Rubinstein. "With this announcement, and the increased funding for the teaching of mathematics and statistics in the May budget, universities should now be in the position to address a national need for more
mathematics and statistics graduates." A further $1.2 million has been awarded to AMSI member, the University of Sydney, to enhance collaborative mathematics and statistics advanced course delivery across universities using Access Grid Rooms (AGR). The AGRs have been partly funded through the International Centre of Excellence for Education in Mathematics (ICE-EM), which is managed by AMSI and
funded by DEST.
Another evening, another function, this one sponsored by the More Maths Grads programme. Dr Reidun Twarock, to whom I spoke earlier in the day, gave her talk on viruses and symmetry, possibly the most interactive maths I have seen. Icosahedrons made from cardboard and real footballs were thrown into the audience to help explain her mathematical concepts, and the talk was followed by a brief function in which the More Maths Grads people promoted their activities.
Journeying in this morning, I regretted somewhat the dodgy Yorkshire fish and chips I had the night before. I attended a press conference on studies conducted by the University of Bristol that suggests that not only is there trace evidence of drug usage on nearly every UK bank note in circulation, but that the notes circulate quickly enough throughout the country that no particular area has higher instances of drug use on their notes. Cocaine was found on nearly every note, whilst heroine is found on around 5%. The presence of the drugs is not simply because notes are used in drug-taking activities - even fresh new notes have some contamination because they are contaminated very early on through contact with infected notes. Cocaine is particularly sticky, and so only very brief contact can contaminate a note.
The next press conference was from Professor Terence Cosgrove from Revolymer, who has developed a non-stick chewing gum. More to the point, he was at pains to note that it is not "non-stick" but rather "low-adhesive". He has made the chewing low-adhesive by introducing a patented polymer that has hydrophilic ends, and so will wash off the pavement with water.
I spent the afternoon chatting to Plus editorial board member Chris Budd about all sorts of mathematical issues - mainly that of Euler and the role of maths in the food and drink industry. But we also touched on mathematics communication, period costumes, maths in crime solving and maths in Celtic and African knots and art. You can hear all this on the podcast very shortly.
Unfortunately my time at the BA Festival of Science is coming to an end. I am about to head into York for a session entitled "How maths changed my life" followed by the last train back to London. I certainly look forward to attending the 2008 version in Liverpool.