Skip to content
Subscriber Only
Opinion
Scott Duke Kominers

Math Geeks Were In Their Glory in the 2010s

The calendar during the past decade offered a bounty of numbers for wonks to play with.

Hope that’s clear.

Hope that’s clear.

Photographer: Gilles Sabri/Bloomberg

The year 2019 capped off a decade in which some of the thorniest math questions finally yielded to mathematicians' ingenuity. We learned profound facts about the distribution of primes, approximations of irrational numbers and how to pack eight- and 24-dimensional oranges (not so useful for grocers, but important for communications technology).

But math geeks like me don't just get excited about the breakthroughs in recent years – we're also delighted by the mathematical properties of those years themselves. And by that metric, the last decade was spectacular: Indeed, it contained two prime-numbered years — 2,011 and 2,017 have no divisors other than 1 and themselves. There was also one year (2016) that was icositetragonal, meaning that it can be represented by a set of pebbles in the shape of a regular 24-sided polygon.