Erica Klarreich

Freelance Mathematics and Science Journalist

Berkeley, California

Erica Klarreich

My work has appeared in Quanta, Nature, New Scientist, Science News, and many other publications, and has been reprinted in the 2010, 2011, and 2016 volumes of "The Best Writing on Mathematics."


Graph Isomorphism Vanquished — Again

January 14, 2017 — It’s been a whiplash-inducing couple of weeks for theoretical computer scientists. On January 4, László Babai, a professor at the University of Chicago, sent shock waves through the community by retracting a claim which, back in November 2015, researchers had hailed as the theoretical computer science advance of the decade.
Quanta Magazine Link to Story

Complexity Theory Problem Strikes Back

January 5, 2017 — The theoretical computer scientist László Babai has retracted a claim that amazed the computer science community when he made it just over a year ago. In November 2015, he announced that he had come up with a “quasi-polynomial” algorithm for graph isomorphism, one of the most famous problems in theoretical computer science.
Quanta Magazine Link to Story

Learning Securely

November 8, 2016
Communications of the ACM Link to Story

How to Cut Cake Fairly and Finally Eat It Too

October 6, 2016 — Two young computer scientists have figured out how to fairly divide cake among any number of people, setting to rest a problem mathematicians have struggled with for decades. Their work has startled many researchers who believed that such a fair-division protocol was probably impossible. People have known at least since biblical times that there’s a way to divide such an object between two people so that neither person envies the other: one person cuts the cake into two slices that she values equally, and the other person gets to choose her favorite slice.
Quanta Magazine Link to Story

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.
Quanta Magazine Link to Story

‘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.
Quanta Magazine Link to Story

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.
Communications of the ACM Link to Story

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.
Nautilus Link to Story

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.
Quanta Magazine Link to Story

Hello, My Name Is . . .

August 1, 2014 — On December 18, 2013, a company called 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.
Communications of the ACM Link to Story

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.
Nautilus Link to Story

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.
Communications of the ACM Link to Story


Erica Klarreich

I have been writing about mathematics and science for a popular audience for more than fifteen 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 Nature, Quanta Magazine,, New Scientist, American Scientist,, Nautilus, and Science News, for which I was the mathematics correspondent for several years. I was also the Journalist in Residence at the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute in Berkeley. My work has been reprinted in the 2010, 2011, and 2016 volumes of "The Best Writing on Mathematics."

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.

For the Fall 2016 semester, I am the Journalist in Residence at the Simons Institute for the Theory of Computing at the University of California, Berkeley.

Contact me at

Follow me on Twitter at @EricaKlarreich