How Sexy Is Chalk Dust?

Plenty, judging from the attention mathematicians and numbers (especially zero) are getting these days

To call mathematics a fin-de-siecle craze would be a bit of an exaggeration, but there is something remarkable about how the most arcane of academic disciplines has finally implanted itself firmly in popular culture. The trend began in 1994 when Princeton University's Andrew Wiles proved Fermat's Last Theorem, a cantankerous problem that had defeated the best mathematical minds for more than 350 years. Not since Archimedes ran naked from his bathtub shouting "Eureka!" has a mathematician received more publicity. PEOPLE magazine put him on its list of "the 25 most intriguing people of the year," the Gap asked him to model...