Freelance Mathematics and Science Journalist

Berkeley, California

I am an award-winning mathematics and science journalist whose work has appeared in Quanta, Nature, The Atlantic, New Scientist and many other publications, and has been reprinted in the 2010, 2011, 2016 and 2020 volumes of "The Best Writing on Mathematics."

Freelance Mathematics and Science Journalist

Berkeley, California

I am an award-winning mathematics and science journalist whose work has appeared in Quanta, Nature, The Atlantic, New Scientist and many other publications, and has been reprinted in the 2010, 2011, 2016 and 2020 volumes of "The Best Writing on Mathematics."

### Landmark Algorithm Breaks 30-Year Impasse

December 14, 2015 — A theoretical computer scientist has presented an algorithm that is being hailed as a breakthrough in mapping the obscure terrain of complexity theory, which explores how hard computational problems are to solve. Last month, László Babai, of the University of Chicago, announced that he had come up with a new algorithm for the “graph isomorphism” problem, one of the most tantalizing mysteries in computer science.### ‘Outsiders’ Crack 50-Year-Old Math Problem

November 24, 2015 — In 2008, Daniel Spielman told his Yale University colleague Gil Kalai about a computer science problem he was working on, concerning how to “sparsify” a network so that it has fewer connections between nodes but still preserves the essential features of the original network. Network sparsification has applications in data compression and efficient computation, but Spielman’s particular problem suggested something different to Kalai.### In Search of Bayesian Inference

January 5, 2015 — In the early morning of June 1, 2009, Air France flight AF 447, carrying 228 passengers and crew, disappeared over a remote section of the Atlantic Ocean. French authorities organized an international search; after about six days, aircraft and ships started finding debris and bodies from the crash, but could not find the airplane itself.### The Illusion Machine That Teaches Us How We See

November 13, 2014 — The man sprang onstage dressed as a miner, complete with headlamp and pickaxe. After swinging the axe a few times, he proclaimed to the audience that he had discovered a “supermagnet”—a substance so strong it could attract even wood. A video screen above him appeared to prove him right: It showed wooden balls rolling up four ramps, seemingly unbound by gravity.### A Grand Vision for the Impossible

August 12, 2014 — One summer afternoon in 2001, while visiting relatives in India, Subhash Khot drifted into his default mode — quietly contemplating the limits of computation.### Hello, My Name Is . . .

August 1, 2014 — On December 18, 2013, a company called FacialNetwork.com drew outcries from privacy advocates by announcing the release of the first real-time facial recognition app for Google Glass, a wearable computer being developed by Google. Called "Nametag," the app, the company announced, would use Google Glass's camera to spot a face in the crowd and then identify it within seconds, displaying the person's name, additional photos, and social media profiles.### Math Shall Set You Free—From Envy

May 1, 2014 — Maegan Ayers and her then-boyfriend, Nathan Socha, faced a dilemma in the fall of 2009. They had found the perfect little condo for sale in the Boston neighborhood of Jamaica Plain: on the ground floor, just a mile from the nearest “T” train station, and close by Boston’s Emerald Necklace, a seven-mile chain of parks and bike paths.### Reading Brains

March 5, 2014 — Mind reading has traditionally been the domain of mystics and science fiction writers. Increasingly, however, it is becoming the province of serious science. A new study from the laboratory of Marcel van Gerven of Radboud University Nijmegen in the Netherlands demonstrates it is possible to figure out what people are looking at by scanning their brains.### Perfecting the Art of Sensible Nonsense

January 30, 2014 — As a graduate student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1996, Amit Sahai was fascinated by the strange notion of a “zero-knowledge” proof, a type of mathematical protocol for convincing someone that something is true without revealing any details of why it is true. As Sahai mulled over this counterintuitive concept, it led him to consider an even more daring notion: What if it were possible to mask the inner workings not just of a proof, but of a computer program, so that people could use the program without being able to figure out how it worked?### Science Lives: Richard Karp

December 13, 2013 — When theoretical computer scientist Richard Karp began his graduate studies at Harvard University in 1955, there were no computer science departments. No one had even coined the term “computer science.”. The discipline was “somewhere between nonexistent and primitive,” he recalls. Nearly 60 years later, Karp, who at 78 still maintains an active research career, has done more than almost any other theoretical computer scientist to shape the discipline.### The Proof in the Quantum Pudding

August 21, 2013 — In early May, news reports gushed that a quantum computation device had for the first time outperformed classical computers, solving certain problems thousands of times faster. The media coverage sent ripples of excitement through the technology community. A full-on quantum computer, if ever built, would revolutionize large swathes of computer science, running many algorithms dramatically faster, including one that could crack most encryption protocols in use today.### Computer Scientists Take Road Less Traveled

Jan 29, 2013 — Not long ago, a team of researchers from Stanford and McGill universities broke a 35-year record in computer science by an almost imperceptible margin — four hundredths of a trillionth of a trillionth of a trillionth of a trillionth of a percent, to be exact. made to that poster child for hard-to-solve computer science quandaries, the “traveling salesman” problem — was too minuscule to have any immediate practical significance, but it has breathed new life into the search for improved approximate solutions.### Privacy by the Numbers: A New Approach to Safeguarding Data

December 10, 2012 — In 1997, when Massachusetts began making health records of state employees available to medical researchers, the government removed patients’ names, addresses, and Social Security numbers. William Weld, then the governor, assured the public that identifying individual patients in the records would be impossible.### Network Solutions

April 24, 2012 — A new breed of ultrafast computer algorithms offers computer scientists a novel tool to probe the structure of large networks. Suppose you are interested in the political leanings of members of a social network, such as Facebook. You happen to know of some members who are die-hard conservatives, and some others who are liberals.### Approximately Hard: The Unique Games Conjecture

October 6, 2011 — While great theorems are arguably the end goal of mathematics, it is often a great conjecture that does the most to advance understanding and create new theories. For no field has this been truer than computational complexity, the study of which computational problems are within reach of a standard computer.### Why Sex?

May 18, 2010 — Most people think of natural selection in terms of “survival of the fittest.” And when it comes to asexual organisms, that catchphrase is pretty much on the mark. The fittest individual in a population will (by definition) have the most offspring, and over generations, the number of these offspring—all identical to their common ancestor—will grow exponentially and gradually take over the population, crowding out less fit individuals.

I have been writing about mathematics and science for a popular audience for more than 20 years. A mathematician before I became a full-time journalist, I try to convey the essence of complex mathematical ideas to non-mathematicians, and give them a sense of the beauty and depth of mathematics.

I also enjoy plunging into topics far from my mathematical roots, and have written about fields such as economics, computer science, medicine, and biology — often as these fields relate to mathematics, but often simply for their own sake.

As a freelance journalist based in Berkeley, California, I have written for many publications, including Quanta Magazine, Nature, ScientificAmerican.com, New Scientist, American Scientist, Wired.com, Nautilus, and Science News, for which I was the mathematics correspondent for several years. I've also been the journalist in residence at the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute in Berkeley and at the Simons Institute for the Theory of Computing at the University of California, Berkeley. My work has been reprinted in the 2010, 2011, 2016 and 2020 volumes of "The Best Writing on Mathematics."

I received the 2021 Communications Award from the Joint Policy Board for Mathematics, which recognizes journalists and other communicators who, on a sustained basis, bring accurate mathematical information to nonmathematical audiences.

I am a graduate of the science writing program at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and I have a Ph.D. in mathematics from Stony Brook University.

Contact me at klarreic@gmail.com.

Follow me on Twitter at @EricaKlarreich