Mirage Magazine and UNM logos over an erased blackboard

Spring 2023 Letters to the Editor

Jun 4, 2023 | Letters, Letters to the Editor, Spring 2023

Photo of Leslie Linthicum

Do you remember sitting in algebra class in high school or college fiddling with your pencil and asking yourself, “When will I ever use this in the real world?”

Some of us had those thoughts when we went into journalism, hoping the only math we would ever have to use as an adult would be how to split a bar tab with friends.

I’m embarrassed to say that math has come back to haunt this ink-stained wretch.

In the Fall 2022 issue of Mirage, we featured a true genius — computer scientist Jack Dongarra who received his PhD in applied mathematics from UNM in 1980 and went on to win the Turing Award, a $1 million prize considered the Nobel of computer science.

His specialty is linear algebra.

We thought a blackboard scattered with math problems would be a nice background for the story layout and we chose one from a graphic design source.

By my math, a beautiful layout + wonderful alum = magazine success.

Then the letters started coming in.

Dear editor:

Jack Dongarra might be “pretty good at math” but the equations in the background on pages 16-19 contain errors! The cube root of negative 8 is *negative* two;  also in a few places the digit “2” is meant to be a superscript meaning something squared, but isn’t printed that way. But a good article!

Mike Collins
Ph.D., computer science, 2005

Dear editor:

I thoroughly enjoy reading each issue of Mirage Magazine, but believe an error was made in the Fall 2022 Edition. The “Pretty Good at Math” story about Jack Dongarra has a formula stating the cube root of -8 equals “2”. I believe it should say it is equal to “-2”.

Take care,

Thomas Malench
’85 BS, Pure Mathematics

Another alum suggested that our use of incorrect math was disrespectful to the story subject.

I hope that isn’t the case, and if it is I’m profoundly sorry. I thank the keen readers and smart alumni who caught the error.

We’ve erased the blackboard and started again. I hope you enjoy this algebra-free issue of Mirage.

Leslie Linthicum

Spring 2023 Mirage Magazine Features


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