Twitter: @amermathsoc

Site: www.ams.org/publicoutreach/mathmoments/browsemoments?format=mp3

136 episodes

2005 to present

Average episode: 7 minutes

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Categories: Interview-Style • Math

*Podcaster's summary*: Mathematical Moments promote an appreciation and understanding of the role mathematics plays in science, nature, technology, and human culture. Hear experts talk about how they use mathematics in various applications from improving film animation to analyzing voting strategies.

List Updated: 2023-Dec-02 13:28 UTC. Episodes: 136. Feedback: @TrueSciPhi.

Episodes |

2023-Oct-17 • 12 minutesExplaining Wildfires Through CurvatureDr. Valentina Wheeler of University of Wollongong, Australia, shares how her work influences efforts to understand wildfires and red blood cells. In Australia, where bushfires are a concern year-round, researchers have long tried to model these wildfires, hoping to learn information that can help with firefighting policy. Mathematician Valentina Wheeler and colleagues began studying a particularly dangerous phenomenon: When two wildfires meet, they create a new, V-shaped fire whose pointed tip races... |

2023-Oct-13 • 12 minutesBridges and Wheels, Tricycles and SquaresDr. Stan Wagon of Macalester College discusses the mathematics behind rolling a square smoothly. In 1997, inspired by a square wheel exhibit at The Exploratorium museum in San Francsico, Dr. Stan Wagon enlisted his neighbor Loren Kellen in building a square-wheeled tricycle and accompanying catenary track. For years, you could ride the tricycle at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota. The National Museum of Mathematics in New York now also has square-wheeled tricycles that can be ridden around... |

2023-Jul-13 • 12 minutesBringing Photographs to LifeDr. Rekha Thomas from the University of Washington discusses three-dimensional image reconstructions from two-dimensional photos. The mathematics of image reconstruction is both simpler and more abstract than it seems. To reconstruct a 3D model based on photographic data, researchers and algorithms must solve a set of polynomial equations. Some solutions to these equations work mathematically, but correspond to an unrealistic scenario — for instance, a camera that took a photo backwards. Additional... |

2023-Apr-05 • 12 minutesGiving Health Care Policy a Dose of MathematicsImelda Flores Vazquez from Econometrica, Inc. explains how economists use mathematics to evaluate the efficacy of health care policies. When a hospital or government wants to adjust their health policies — for instance, by encouraging more frequent screenings for certain diseases — how do they know whether their program will work or not? If the service has already been implemented elsewhere, researchers can use that data to estimate its effects. But if the idea is brand-new, or has only been used in... |

2022-Dec-29 • 10 minutesUsing Math to Support Cancer ResearchStacey Finley from University of Southern California discusses how mathematical models support the research of cancer biology. Cancer research is a crucial job, but a difficult one. Tumors growing inside the human body are affected by all kinds of factors. These conditions are difficult (if not impossible) to recreate in the lab, and using real patients as subjects can be painful and invasive. Mathematical models give cancer researchers the ability to run experiments virtually, testing the effects o... |

2022-Nov-15 • 15 minutesKeeping the Lights OnRodney Kizito from U.S. Department of Energy discusses solar energy, mathematics, and microgrids. When you flip a switch to turn on a light, where does that energy come from? In a traditional power grid, electricity is generated at large power plants and then transmitted long distances. But now, individual homes and businesses with solar panels can generate some or all of their own power and even send energy into the rest of the grid. Modifying the grid so that power can flow in both directions depe... |

2022-Jun-28 • 12 minutesDriving Up Air PollutionKaren Rios Soto explains how mathematics illuminates the link between air pollution from motor vehicle emissions and asthma. Air pollution causes the premature deaths of an estimated seven million people each year, and it makes life worse for all of us. People with asthma can experience chest tightness, coughing or wheezing, and difficulty breathing when triggered by air pollution. One major source is gas- and diesel-powered cars and trucks, which emit "ultrafine" particles less than 0.1 micrometers... |

2022-May-19 • 11 minutesDeblurring ImagesMalena Espanol explains how she and others use linear algebra to correct blurry images. Imagine snapping a quick picture of a flying bird. The image is likely to come out blurry. But thanks to mathematics, you might be able to use software to improve the photo. Scientists often deal with blurry pictures, too. Linear algebra and clever numerical methods allow researchers to fix imperfect photos in medical imaging, astronomy, and more. In a computer, the pixels that make up an image can be represented... |

2022-Feb-14 • 14 minutesExploring Thermodynamics with BilliardsTim Chumley explains the connections between random billiards and the science of heat and energy transfer. If you've ever played billiards or pool, you've used your intuition and some mental geometry to plan your shots. Mathematicians have gone a step further, using these games as inspiration for new mathematical problems. Starting from the simple theoretical setup of a single ball bouncing around in an enclosed region, the possibilities are endless. For instance, if the region is shaped like a stad... |

2021-Oct-21 • 14 minutesPinpointing How Genes InteractLorin Crawford explains how he uses math to analyze interactions between genes. Your DNA (the biological instruction manual in all of your cells) contains a mind-boggling amount of information represented in roughly 20,000 genes that encode proteins, plus a similar number of genes with other functions. As the cost of analyzing an individual's DNA has plummeted, it has become possible to search the entire human genome for genetic variants that are associated with traits such as height or susceptibili... |

2021-Sep-01 • 14 minutesSecuring Data in the Quantum EraAngela Robinson explains the math behind the next generation of cryptographic algorithms. Whenever you log in to a website, send an email, or make an online purchase, you're counting on your data being sent securely, without hackers being able to crack the code. Our standard cryptographic systems hinge on mathematical problems that stump present-day computers, like finding the prime factors of a very large number. But in the coming decades, powerful quantum computers are expected to be able to rapid... |

2021-Jul-06 • 18 minutesTaking the "Temperature" of LanguagesRicardo Bermudez-Otero and Tobias Galla discuss the mathematics describing the evolution of human languages. The sounds and structures of the world's approximately 7,000 languages never stop changing. Just compare the English in Romeo and Juliet or the Spanish in Don Quixote to the modern forms. But historical records give an incomplete view of language evolution. Increasingly, linguists draw upon mathematical models to figure out which features of a language change often and which ones change more ... |

2021-May-24 • 11 minutesDoing the MathMath may sometimes seem as if it's comprised of countless meaningless unconnected exercises, but in reality, it's much more. It's figuring out how to do something, and, even better, why something works the way it does. The math you're doing now can open doors for you so that you can answer deep questions yourself about a subject or idea that you're interested in. Give those questions a shot and perhaps someday also help others solve their problems. Five mathematicians (Alexander Diaz-Lopez, Trachette Jackso... |

2021-Apr-26 • 15 minutesMaking Room for PatientsWe've seen that the availability of hospital beds is important during a pandemic, and it's important during normal times as well. Whether it's for emergency medical help or for a scheduled procedure (for example, chemotherapy), access to hospital space, staff, and equipment can be a matter of life and death. Mathematics helps medical center staff manage their resources more efficiently so that they are available when needed. An optimization technique called integer programming is used along with tools from ... |

2021-Mar-22 • 18 minutesFighting FiresIn many places, fire seasons keep getting longer with larger and ever more destructive wildfires. Teams of mathematicians, computer scientists, meteorologists, and firefighters are working to reduce the number of large fires before they happen and to contain those that do occur. Mark Finney talks about the math involved in modeling and fighting wildfires. |

2021-Feb-22 • 10 minutesDescribing Dryland Vegetation PatternsMath is often described as the science of patterns, which makes it a natural subject to help in the study of the underlying causes of patterns found in nature, for example, bands of vegetation that often occur on gently sloped terrains in certain near-desert ecosystems worldwide. We are starting to learn more about these bands' common properties by using mathematical models built on data, such as rainfall totals and the curvature of the terrain. Mary Silber talks about these mathematical models of vegetatio... |

2021-Jan-25 • 25 minutesMixing Math and CookingMath's connection with cooking extends beyond the mathematical constant that sounds like a dessert. For example, using differential equations to model fluid flow and heat transfer, research teams have found how spaghetti curls as it's cooked, how to rotate a pan to make the perfect crepe (thin pancake), and the temperature setting to get the perfect steak. Mathematics helps understand cooking, and parallels it in that following a recipe can lead to good results, but asking questions like "What if we tried t... |

2020-Jan-27 • 18 minutesCracking Open Black BoxesAlgorithms can be very useful, but lately, with so much data being created and shared, and with the increase in their use in critical areas such as hiring, credit, and health care, algorithms are under intense scrutiny about their fairness. People experience the effects of an algorithm's conclusion, but the data and steps that form the basis for that conclusion are frequently hidden from them (as if inside a black box). Cathy O'Neil talks about the unfairness of most predictive algorithms. |

2019-Oct-21 • 15 minutesSolving the Mystery of the Wine LegsWhat causes wine legs (tears)? Andrea Bertozzi explains and describes how to generate legs. |

2019-Sep-23 • 5 minutesPicturing PowehiFumie Tazaki talks about creating the first image of a black hole and its shadow, which relied on Fourier transforms. About the work to make the image, she says, "Our collaboration has 200 members and we did it with all of our efforts." |

2019-Sep-23 • 5 minutesUnmasking DeepfakesHany Farid talks about fighting fake videos: "Mathematically, there's a lot of linear algebra, multivariate calculus, probability and statistics, and then a lot of techniques from pattern recognition, signal processing, and image processing." |

2019-Sep-23 • 5 minutesMaking Beautiful MathematicsRob Schneiderman talks about the metaphorical connections between math and music |

2019-Aug-19 • 5 minutesKeeping People Alive Part 2Steven Strogatz and Mary Bushman talk about math's role in controlling HIV and understanding malaria, respectively. Mary Bushman says, "It's really cool to try and use math to nail down some questions that have gone unanswered for a really long time." |

2019-Aug-19 • 5 minutesKeeping People Alive Part 1Steven Strogatz and Mary Bushman talk about math's role in controlling HIV and understanding malaria, respectively. Mary Bushman says, "It's really cool to try and use math to nail down some questions that have gone unanswered for a really long time." |

2019-Jun-12 • 5 minutesMaking the Earth FlatTom Patterson and Bojan Savric discuss the Equal Earth projection map that they created with Bernhard Jenny. |

2019-Jun-10 • 5 minutesScreening for AutismResearcher: Jordan Hashemi, Duke University Description: Jordan Hashemi talks about an easy-to-use app to screen for autism. |

2019-Jun-09 • 5 minutesUnbunching BusesResearchers: Vikash V. Gayah and S. Ilgin Guler, Pennsylvania State University Description: Gayah and Guler talk about mitigating the clustering of buses on a route. |

2019-Jun-02 • 5 minutesWinning the RaceResearcher: Christine Darden, NASA (retired) Description: Christine Darden on working at NASA. |

2018-Sep-17 • 5 minutesRevolutionizing and IndustryResearchers: Christopher Brinton, Zoomi, Inc. and Princeton University, and Mung Chiang, Purdue University Moment: http://www.ams.org/samplings/mathmoments/mm139-netflix.pdf Description:... Christopher Brinton and Mung Chiang talk about the Netflix Prize competition. |

2018-Sep-17 • 5 minutesGoing Into a ShellResearcher: Derek Moulton, University of Oxford Moment: http://www.ams.org/samplings/mathmoments/mm138-shells.pdf... Description: Derek Moulton explains the math behind the shapes of seashells. |

2018-Sep-17 • 5 minutesKeeping the Roof OnResearcher: Stefan Siegmund, TU-Dresden Moment: http://www.ams.org/samplings/mathmoments/mm137-hurricane.pdf... Moment Title: Keeping the Roof On Description: Stefan Siegmund talks about his an invention to protect homes during hurricanes. Podcast page: http://www.ams.org/samplings/mathmoments/mm137-hurricane-podcast... |

2018-Sep-17 • 5 minutesScoring with New ThinkingResearcher: Andy Andres, Boston University Moment: http://www.ams.org/samplings/mathmoments/mm136-baseball.pdf... Moment Title: Scoring with New Thinking Description: Andy Andres on baseball analytics. Podcast page: http://www.ams.org/samplings/mathmoments/mm136-baseball-podcast... |

2017-Aug-22 • 5 minutesGenerating Patterns Part 2Researcher: Michel C. Molinkovitch, University of Geneva. Description: Michel C. Milinkovitch used math, physics, and biology for an amazing discovery about the patterns on a lizard's skin. |

2017-Aug-22 • 5 minutesGenerating Patterns Part 1Researcher: Michel C. Molinkovitch, University of Geneva. Description: Michel C. Milinkovitch used math, physics, and biology for an amazing discovery about the patterns on a lizard's skin. |

2017-Aug-22 • 5 minutesHunting for PlanetsResearcher: Konstantin Batygin, Caltech. Description: Konstantin Batygin talks about using math to investigate the existence of Planet Nine. |

2017-May-10 • 5 minutesDesigning Better BicyclesResearcher: Jim Papadopoulos, Northeastern University. Jim Papadopoulos talks about his years of research analyzing bicycles. |

2017-May-10 • 5 minutesFarming BetterResearchers: Eleanor Jenkins, Clemson University and Kathleen (Fowler) Kavanagh, Clarkson University. Lea Jenkins and Katie Kavanagh talk about their work making farming more efficient while using water wisely. |

2016-Oct-11 • 5 minutesMaintaining a Balance Part 2Researcher: Daniel Rothman, MIT. Dan Rothman talks about how math helped understand a mass extinction. |

2016-Oct-11 • 5 minutesMaintaining a Balance Part 1Researcher: Daniel Rothman, MIT. Dan Rothman talks about how math helped understand a mass extinction. |

2016-Oct-11 • 5 minutesTrimming Taxiing TimeResearcher: Hamsa Balakrishnan, MIT. Hamsa Balakrishnan talks about her work to shorten airport runway queues. |

2016-Oct-11 • 5 minutesMaking Art WorkResearcher: Annalisa Crannell, Franklin & Marshall College. Annalisa Crannell on perspective in art. |

2016-Oct-11 • 5 minutesExplaining RainbowsResearcher: John A. Adam, Old Dominion University. John A. Adam explains the math and physics behind rainbows. |

2016-Oct-11 • 5 minutesFarming BetterResearchers: Eleanor Jenkins, Clemson University, and Katie Kavanagh, Clarkson University. Eleanor Jenkins and Katie Kavanagh talk about their interdisciplinary team's work helping farmers. |

2016-Jun-09 • 5 minutesDis-playing the Game of Thrones: Part 2Researcher: Andrew Beveridge, Macalester College: Moment Title: Dis-playing the Game of Thrones: Description: Andrew Beveridge uses math to analyze Game of Thrones. |

2016-Jun-09 • 5 minutesDis-playing the Game of Thrones: Part 1Researcher: Andrew Beveridge, Macalester College: Moment Title: Dis-playing the Game of Thrones: Description: Andrew Beveridge uses math to analyze Game of Thrones. |

2016-Jun-09 • 5 minutesThwarting Poachers: Part 2Researcher: Thomas Snitch, University of Maryland |

2016-Jun-09 • 5 minutesThwarting Poachers: Part 1Researcher: Thomas Snitch, University of Maryland |

2015-Oct-05 • 5 minutesWorking With the System: Part 2Researcher: Cristina Stoica, Wilfrid Laurier University: Description: Cristina Stoica talks about celestial mechanics. |

2015-Oct-05 • 5 minutesWorking With the System: Part 1Researcher: Cristina Stoica, Wilfrid Laurier University: Description: Cristina Stoica talks about celestial mechanics. |

2015-Oct-05 • 5 minutesScanning Ancient SitesResearcher: Jackson Cothren, University of Arkansas: Moment Title: Scanning Ancient Sites: Description: Jackson Cothren talks about creating three-dimensional scans of ancient sites. |

2015-Oct-05 • 5 minutesPiling On and on and onResearcher: Wesley Pegden, Carnegie Mellon University: Moment Title: Piling On and on and on!: Description: Wesley Pegden talks about simulating sandpiles |

2015-Oct-05 • 5 minutesAdding a New Wrinkle DescriptionResearcher: Norbert Stoop, MIT: Title: Adding a New Wrinkle: Description: Norbert Stoop talks about new research on the formation of wrinkles. |

2015-Oct-05 • 5 minutesHolding the Lead DescriptionResearcher: Sidney Redner, Santa Fe Institute Moment Title: Holding the Lead Description: Sidney Redner talks about how random walks relate to leads in basketball. |

2014-Dec-03 • 5 minutesGoing Over the Top - Designing roller coastersResearcher: Meredith Greer, Bates College. Going Over the Top Description: Meredith Greer talks about math and roller coasters. |

2014-Dec-03 • 5 minutesTreating Tremors - Helping with Parkinson's disease - Part 1Researcher: Christopher Butson, Scientific Computing and Imaging Institute, University of Utah. Christopher Butson talks about work he's done to help treat Parkinson's disease. |

2014-Dec-03 • 5 minutesTreating Tremors - Helping with Parkinson's disease - Part 2Researcher: Christopher Butson, Scientific Computing and Imaging Institute, University of Utah. Christopher Butson talks about work he's done to help treat Parkinson's disease. |

2014-Dec-03 • 5 minutesGoing Back to the Beginning - The Big BangEdward Witten talks about math and physics. |

2014-Dec-03 • 5 minutesProviding PowerResearcher: Michael C. Ferris, University of Wisconsin-Madison. Moment Title: Providing Power. Description: Michael C. Ferris talks about power grids |

2014-Sep-15 • 4 minutesBeing Knotty: Part 1Colin Adams talks about knot theory |

2014-Sep-15 • 5 minutesExploiting a Little-Known Force: Part 1Lydia Bourouiba talks about surface tension and the transmission of disease |

2014-Sep-15 • 5 minutesExploiting a Little-Known Force: Part 2Lydia Bourouiba talks about surface tension and the transmission of disease |

2014-Sep-15 • 4 minutesBeing Knotty: Part 2Colin Adams talks about knot theory |

2014-Jun-09 • 5 minutesScheduling SportsMichael Trick talks about creating schedules for leagues. |

2013-Dec-09 • 4 minutesUnifying Diverse Cities: Part 1Despite the considerable variety among cities, researchers have identified common mathematical properties that hold around the world, regardless of a city.s population, location or even time. |

2013-Dec-09 • 4 minutesMaking an Attitude Adjustment: Part 1Nazareth Bedrossian talks about using math to reposition the International Space Station. |

2013-Sep-18 • 4 minutesMaking an Attitude Adjustment: Part 2Nazareth Bedrossian explains more about math's role in maneuvering spacecraft and why he's a consumer of mathematical results. |

2013-Sep-18 • 4 minutesUnifying Diverse Cities: Part 2Despite the considerable variety among cities, researchers have identified common mathematical properties that hold around the world, regardless of a city.s population, location or even time. |

2013-Sep-18 • 4 minutesGetting Inside Your Head - The brain's communication pathways: Part 1Van Wedeen talks about the geometry of the brain's communication pathways. |

2013-Sep-18 • 4 minutesGetting Inside Your Head - The brain's communication pathways: Part 2Van Wedeen talks about the geometry of the brain's communication pathways. |

2013-Sep-18 • 4 minutesThinking Outside the Box Score - Math and basketball: Part 1Muthu Alagappan explains how topology and analytics are bringing a new look to basketball. |

2013-Sep-18 • 4 minutesThinking Outside the Box Score - Math and basketball: Part 2Muthu Alagappan explains how topology and analytics are bringing a new look to basketball. |

2013-Aug-20 • 4 minutesWorking Up a Lather : Part 4James Sethian and Frank Morgan talk about their research investigating bubbles. |

2013-Aug-20 • 4 minutesWorking Up a Lather : Part 3James Sethian and Frank Morgan talk about their research investigating bubbles. |

2013-Aug-20 • 4 minutesWorking Up a Lather : Part 2James Sethian and Frank Morgan talk about their research investigating bubbles. |

2013-Aug-20 • 4 minutesWorking Up a Lather : Part 1James Sethian and Frank Morgan talk about their research investigating bubbles. |

2013-Jul-25 • 4 minutesFreeing Up Architecture: Part 2Many of today.s most striking buildings are nontraditional freeform shapes. A new field of mathematics, discrete differential geometry, makes it possible to construct these complex shapes that begin as designers. digital creations. Since it.s impossible to fashion a large structure out of a single piece of glass or metal, the design is realized using smaller pieces that best fit the original smooth surface. Triangles would appear to be a natural choice to represent a shape, but it turns out that using quadr... |

2013-Jul-25 • 4 minutesFreeing Up Architecture: Part 1Many of today.s most striking buildings are nontraditional freeform shapes. A new field of mathematics, discrete differential geometry, makes it possible to construct these complex shapes that begin as designers. digital creations. Since it.s impossible to fashion a large structure out of a single piece of glass or metal, the design is realized using smaller pieces that best fit the original smooth surface. Triangles would appear to be a natural choice to represent a shape, but it turns out that using quadr... |

2012-Oct-01 • 4 minutesDescribing the OceansImagine trying to describe the circulation and temperatures across the vast expanse of our oceans. Good models of our oceans not only benefit fishermen on our coasts but farmers inland as well. Until recently, there were neither adequate tools nor enough data to construct models. Now with new data and new mathematics, short-range climate forecasting for example, of an upcoming El Nino is possible.There is still much work to be done in long-term climate forecasting, however, and we only barely understand the... |

2012-Oct-01 • 4 minutesFinding Friends: Part 2Facebook has over 700 million users with almost 70 billion connections. The hard part isn.t people making friends; rather it.s Facebook.s computers storing and accessing relevant data, including information about friends of friends. The latter is important for recommendations to users (People You May Know). Much of this work involves computer science, but mathematics also plays a significant role. Subjects such as linear programming and graph theory help cut in half the time needed to determine a person.s f... |

2012-Oct-01 • 4 minutesFinding Friends: Part 1Facebook has over 700 million users with almost 70 billion connections. The hard part isn.t people making friends; rather it.s Facebook.s computers storing and accessing relevant data, including information about friends of friends. The latter is important for recommendations to users (People You May Know). Much of this work involves computer science, but mathematics also plays a significant role. Subjects such as linear programming and graph theory help cut in half the time needed to determine a person.s f... |

2012-Oct-01 • 3 minutesCatching and Releasing: Part 2There.s more mathematics involved in juggling than just trying to make sure that the number of balls (or chainsaws) that hits the ground stays at zero. Subjects such as combinatorics and abstract algebra help jugglers answer important questions, such as whether a particular juggling pattern can actually be juggled. For example, can balls be juggled so that the time period that each ball stays aloft alternates between five counts and one? The answer is Yes. Math also tells you that the number of balls needed... |

2012-Oct-01 • 3 minutesCatching and Releasing: Part 1There.s more mathematics involved in juggling than just trying to make sure that the number of balls (or chainsaws) that hits the ground stays at zero. Subjects such as combinatorics and abstract algebra help jugglers answer important questions, such as whether a particular juggling pattern can actually be juggled. For example, can balls be juggled so that the time period that each ball stays aloft alternates between five counts and one? The answer is Yes. Math also tells you that the number of balls needed... |

2012-Aug-22 • 4 minutesPutting the auto in automobileIt may be hard to accept but it.s likely that we.d all be much safer in autonomous vehicles driven by computers, not humans. Annually more than 30,000 Americans die in car crashes, almost all due to human error. Autonomous vehicles will communicate position and speed to each other and avoid potential collisions-without the possibility of dozing off or road rage. There are still many legal (and insurance) issues to resolve, but researchers who are revving up the development of autonomous vehicles are relying... |

2012-Aug-21 • 4 minutesForecasting Crime Part 2No one can predict who will commit a crime but in some cities math is helping detect areas where crimes have the greatest chance of occurring. Police then increase patrols in these "hot spots" in order to prevent crime. This innovative practice, used to predict aftershocks after major earthquakes. Just as aftershocks are more likely near a recent earthquake.s epicenter, so too are crimes, as criminals do indeed return to, or very close to, the scene of a crime. Cities employing this approach have seen crim... |

2012-Aug-21 • 4 minutesForecasting Crime Part 1No one can predict who will commit a crime but in some cities math is helping detect areas where crimes have the greatest chance of occurring. Police then increase patrols in these "hot spots" in order to prevent crime. This innovative practice, called predictive policing, is based on large amounts of data collected from previous crimes, but it involves more than just maps and push pins. Predictive policing identifies hot spots by using algorithms similar to those used to predict aftershocks after major ear... |

2012-Jun-15 • 4 minutesBeing on the Cutting EdgeCutters of diamonds and other gemstones have a high-pressure job with conflicting demands: Flaws must be removed from rough stones to maximize brilliance but done so in a way that yields the greatest weight possible. Because diamonds are often cut to a standard shape, cutting them is far less complex than cutting other gemstones, such as rubies or sapphires, which can have hundreds of different shapes. By coupling geometry and multivariable calculus with optimization techniques, mathematicians have been abl... |

2012-Jun-15 • 4 minutesGetting a Handle on ObesityOnce a problem only in the developed world, obesity is now a worldwide epidemic. The overwhelming cause of the epidemic is a dramatic increase in the food supply and in food consumption not a surprise. Yet there are still many mysteries about weight change that can.t be answered either inside the lab, because of the impracticality of keeping people isolated for long periods of time, or outside, because of the unreliability of dietary diaries. Mathematical models based on differential equations can help over... |

2011-Oct-05 • 4 minutesKeeping Things in Focus - Part 2Some of the simplest and most well-known curves parabolas and ellipses, which can be traced back to ancient Greece are also among the most useful. Parabolas have a reflective property that is employed in many of today.s solar power technologies. Mirrors with a parabolic shape reflect all entering light to a single point called the focus, where the solar power is converted into usable energy. Ellipses, which have two foci, have a similar reflecting property that is exploited in a medical procedure called lit... |

2011-Oct-05 • 4 minutesKeeping Things in Focus - Part 1Some of the simplest and most well-known curves parabolas and ellipses, which can be traced back to ancient Greece are also among the most useful. Parabolas have a reflective property that is employed in many of today.s solar power technologies. Mirrors with a parabolic shape reflect all entering light to a single point called the focus, where the solar power is converted into usable energy. Ellipses, which have two foci, have a similar reflecting property that is exploited in a medical procedure called lit... |

2011-Oct-05 • 4 minutesHarnessing Wind Power - Part 2Mathematics contributes in many ways to the process of converting wind power into usable energy. Large-scale weather models are used to find suitable locations for wind farms, while more narrowly focused models incorporating interactions arising from factors such as wake effects and turbulence specify how to situate individual turbines within a farm. In addition, computational fluid dynamics describes air flow and drag around turbines. This helps determine the optimal shapes for the blades, both structurall... |

2011-Oct-05 • 4 minutesHarnessing Wind Power - Part 1Mathematics contributes in many ways to the process of converting wind power into usable energy. Large-scale weather models are used to find suitable locations for wind farms, while more narrowly focused models incorporating interactions arising from factors such as wake effects and turbulence specify how to situate individual turbines within a farm. In addition, computational fluid dynamics describes air flow and drag around turbines. This helps determine the optimal shapes for the blades, both structurall... |

2011-Oct-05 • 4 minutesKeeping the beat - Part 2The heart.s function of pumping blood may seem fairly simple but the underlying mechanisms and electrical impulses that maintain a healthy rhythm are extremely complex. Many areas of mathematics, including differential equations, dynamical systems, and topology help model the electrical behavior of cardiac cells, the connections between those cells and the heart.s overall geometry. Researchers aim to gain a better understanding of the normal operation of the heart, as well as learn how to diagnose the onset... |

2011-Oct-05 • 4 minutesKeeping the beat - Part 1The heart.s function of pumping blood may seem fairly simple but the underlying mechanisms and electrical impulses that maintain a healthy rhythm are extremely complex. Many areas of mathematics, including differential equations, dynamical systems, and topology help model the electrical behavior of cardiac cells, the connections between those cells and the heart.s overall geometry. Researchers aim to gain a better understanding of the normal operation of the heart, as well as learn how to diagnose the onset... |

2011-Jul-12 • 4 minutesSustaining the Supply Chain - Part 2It.s often a challenge to get from Point A to Point B in normal circumstances, but after a disaster it can be almost impossible to transport food, water, and clothing from the usual supply points to the people in desperate need. A new mathematical model employs probability and nonlinear programming to design supply chains that have the best chance of functioning after a disaster. For each region or country, the model generates a robust chain of supply and delivery points that can respond to the combination ... |

2011-Jul-12 • 6 minutesSustaining the Supply Chain - Part 1It.s often a challenge to get from Point A to Point B in normal circumstances, but after a disaster it can be almost impossible to transport food, water, and clothing from the usual supply points to the people in desperate need. A new mathematical model employs probability and nonlinear programming to design supply chains that have the best chance of functioning after a disaster. For each region or country, the model generates a robust chain of supply and delivery points that can respond to the combination ... |

2011-Jul-12 • 7 minutesAnswering the Question, and Vice VersaExperts are adept at answering questions in their fields, but even the most knowledgeable authority can.t be expected to keep up with all the data generated today. Computers can handle data, but until now, they were inept at understanding questions posed in conversational language. Watson, the IBM computer that won the Jeopardy! Challenge, is an example of a computer that can answer questions using informal, nuanced, even pun-filled, phrases. Graph theory, formal logic, and statistics help create the algori... |

2011-Jun-16 • 8 minutesSounding the Alarm - Part 2Nothing can prevent a tsunami from happening they are enormously powerful events of nature. But in many cases networks of seismic detectors, sea-level monitors and deep ocean buoys can allow authorities to provide adequate warning to those at risk. Mathematical models constructed from partial differential equations use the generated data to determine estimates of the speed and magnitude of a tsunami and its arrival time on coastlines. These models may predict whether a trough or a crest will be the first to... |

2011-Jun-16 • 8 minutesSounding the Alarm - Part 1Nothing can prevent a tsunami from happening they are enormously powerful events of nature. But in many cases networks of seismic detectors, sea-level monitors and deep ocean buoys can allow authorities to provide adequate warning to those at risk. Mathematical models constructed from partial differential equations use the generated data to determine estimates of the speed and magnitude of a tsunami and its arrival time on coastlines. These models may predict whether a trough or a crest will be the first to... |

2011-Apr-21 • 6 minutesPutting Another Cork in It - Part 2Chartier and Martin talk about they used math to show that a triple cork snowboarding maneuver was possible. |

2011-Apr-21 • 6 minutesPutting Another Cork in It - Part 1Chartier and Martin talk about they used math to show that a triple cork snowboarding maneuver was possible. |

2010-Dec-10 • 4 minutesAssigning Seats - Part 2As difficult as it is to do the census, the ensuing process of determining the number of congressional seats for each state can be even harder. The basic premise, that the proportion of each state's delegation in the House should match its proportion of the U.S. population, is simple enough. The difficulty arises when deciding what to do with the fractions that inevitably arise (e.g., New York can't have 28.7 seats). Over the past 200 years, several methods of apportioning seats have been used. Many sound g... |

2010-Dec-10 • 6 minutesAssigning Seats - Part 1As difficult as it is to do the census, the ensuing process of determining the number of congressional seats for each state can be even harder. The basic premise, that the proportion of each state's delegation in the House should match its proportion of the U.S. population, is simple enough. The difficulty arises when deciding what to do with the fractions that inevitably arise (e.g., New York can't have 28.7 seats). Over the past 200 years, several methods of apportioning seats have been used. Many sound g... |

2010-Dec-10 • 5 minutesKnowing Rogues - Part 2It doesn't take a perfect storm to generate a rogue wave-an open-ocean wave much steeper and more massive than its neighbors that appears with little or no warning. Sometimes winds and currents collide causing waves to combine nonlinearly and produce these towering walls of water. Mathematicians and other researchers are collecting data from rogue waves and modeling them with partial differential equations to understand how and why they form. A deeper understanding of both their origins and their frequency ... |

2010-Dec-10 • 6 minutesKnowing Rogues - Part 1It doesn't take a perfect storm to generate a rogue wave-an open-ocean wave much steeper and more massive than its neighbors that appears with little or no warning. Sometimes winds and currents collide causing waves to combine nonlinearly and produce these towering walls of water. Mathematicians and other researchers are collecting data from rogue waves and modeling them with partial differential equations to understand how and why they form. A deeper understanding of both their origins and their frequency ... |

2010-Dec-10 • 9 minutesCreating Something out of (Next to) NothingNormally when creating a digital file, such as a picture, much more information is recorded than necessary-even before storing or sending. The image on the right was created with compressed (or compressive) sensing, a breakthrough technique based on probability and linear algebra. Rather than recording excess information and discarding what is not needed, sensors collect the most significant information at the time of creation, which saves power, time, and memory. The potential increase in efficiency has le... |

2010-Dec-10 • 7 minutesGetting at the Truth - Part 2Mathematics has helped investigators in several major cases of human rights abuses and election fraud. Among them: The 2009 election in Iran. A mathematical result known as Benford's Law states that the leading digits of truly random numbers aren't distributed uniformly, as might be expected. Instead, smaller digits, such as 1's, appear much more frequently than larger digits, such as 9's. Benford's Law and other statistical tests have been applied to the 2009 election and suggest strongly that the final to... |

2010-Dec-10 • 4 minutesGetting at the Truth - Part 1Mathematics has helped investigators in several major cases of human rights abuses and election fraud. Among them: The 2009 election in Iran. A mathematical result known as Benford's Law states that the leading digits of truly random numbers aren't distributed uniformly, as might be expected. Instead, smaller digits, such as 1's, appear much more frequently than larger digits, such as 9's. Benford's Law and other statistical tests have been applied to the 2009 election and suggest strongly that the final to... |

2009-Sep-28 • 7 minutesResisting the Spread of Disease - Part 2One of the most useful tools in analyzing the spread of disease is a system of evolutionary equations that reflects the dynamics among three distinct categories of a population: those susceptible (S) to a disease, those infected (I) with it, and those recovered (R) from it. This SIR model is applicable to a range of diseases, from smallpox to the flu. To predict the impact of a particular disease it is crucial to determine certain parameters associated with it, such as the average number of people that a ty... |

2009-Sep-28 • 6 minutesResisting the Spread of Disease - Part 1One of the most useful tools in analyzing the spread of disease is a system of evolutionary equations that reflects the dynamics among three distinct categories of a population: those susceptible (S) to a disease, those infected (I) with it, and those recovered (R) from it. This SIR model is applicable to a range of diseases, from smallpox to the flu. To predict the impact of a particular disease it is crucial to determine certain parameters associated with it, such as the average number of people that a ty... |

2009-Sep-16 • 5 minutesPredicting Climate - Part 2What.s in store for our climate and us? It.s an extraordinarily complex question whose answer requires physics, chemistry, earth science, and mathematics (among other subjects) along with massive computing power. Mathematicians use partial differential equations to model the movement of the atmosphere; dynamical systems to describe the feedback between land, ocean, air, and ice; and statistics to quantify the uncertainty of current projections. Although there is some discrepancy among different climate fore... |

2009-Sep-16 • 6 minutesPredicting Climate - Part 1What.s in store for our climate and us? It.s an extraordinarily complex question whose answer requires physics, chemistry, earth science, and mathematics (among other subjects) along with massive computing power. Mathematicians use partial differential equations to model the movement of the atmosphere; dynamical systems to describe the feedback between land, ocean, air, and ice; and statistics to quantify the uncertainty of current projections. Although there is some discrepancy among different climate fore... |

2009-Jul-01 • 10 minutesMatching Vital Needs - Increasing the number of live-donor kidney transplantsA person needing a kidney transplant may have a friend or relative who volunteers to be a living donor, but whose kidney is incompatible, forcing the person to wait for a transplant from a deceased donor. In the U.S. alone, thousands of people die each year without ever finding a suitable kidney. A new technique applies graph theory to groups of incompatible patient-donor pairs to create the largest possible number of paired-donation exchanges. These exchanges, in which a donor paired with Patient A gives a... |

2009-May-18 • 10 minutesPulling Out (from) All the Stops - Visiting all of NY's subway stops in record timeWith 468 stops served by 26 lines, the New York subway system can make visitors feel lucky when they successfully negotiate one planned trip in a day. Yet these two New Yorkers, Chris Solarz and Matt Ferrisi, took on the task of breaking a world record by visiting every stop in the system in less than 24 hours. They used mathematics, especially graph theory, to narrow down the possible routes to a manageable number and subdivided the problem to find the best routes in smaller groups of stations. Then they p... |

2009-Apr-10 • 7 minutesWorking It Out. Math solves a mystery about the opening of "A Hard Day's Night."The music of most hit songs is pretty well known, but sometimes there are mysteries. One question that remained unanswered for over forty years is: What instrumentation and notes make up the opening chord of the Beatles. "A Hard Day.s Night"? Mathematician Jason Brown - a big Beatles fan - recently solved the puzzle using his musical knowledge and discrete Fourier transforms, mathematical transformations that help decompose signals into their basic parts. These transformations simplify applications ranging... |

2008-Dec-01 • 7 minutesGetting It TogetherThe collective motion of many groups of animals can be stunning. Flocks of birds and schools of fish are able to remain cohesive, find food, and avoid predators without leaders and without awareness of all but a few other members in their groups. Research using vector analysis and statistics has led to the discovery of simple principles, such as members maintaining a minimum distance between neighbors while still aligning with them, which help explain shapes such as the one below. Although collective motio... |

2008-Nov-13 • 7 minutesRestoring Genius - Discovering lost works of Archimedes - Part 2Archimedes was one of the most brilliant people ever, on a par with Einstein and Newton. Yet very little of what he wrote still exists because of the passage of time, and because many copies of his works were erased and the cleaned pages were used again. One of those written-over works (called a palimpsest) has resurfaced, and advanced digital imaging techniques using statistics and linear algebra have revealed his previously unknown discoveries in combinatorics and calculus. This leads to a question that w... |

2008-Nov-13 • 5 minutesRestoring Genius - Discovering lost works of Archimedes - Part 1Archimedes was one of the most brilliant people ever, on a par with Einstein and Newton. Yet very little of what he wrote still exists because of the passage of time, and because many copies of his works were erased and the cleaned pages were used again. One of those written-over works (called a palimpsest) has resurfaced, and advanced digital imaging techniques using statistics and linear algebra have revealed his previously unknown discoveries in combinatorics and calculus. This leads to a question that w... |

2008-Nov-13 • 6 minutesImproving Stents - Part 2Stents are expandable tubes that are inserted into blocked or damaged blood vessels. They offer a practical way to treat coronary artery disease, repairing vessels and keeping them open so that blood can flow freely. When stents work, they are a great alternative to radical surgery, but they can deteriorate or become dislodged. Mathematical models of blood vessels and stents are helping to determine better shapes and materials for the tubes. These models are so accurate that the FDA is considering requiring... |

2008-Nov-13 • 7 minutesImproving Stents - Part 1Stents are expandable tubes that are inserted into blocked or damaged blood vessels. They offer a practical way to treat coronary artery disease, repairing vessels and keeping them open so that blood can flow freely. When stents work, they are a great alternative to radical surgery, but they can deteriorate or become dislodged. Mathematical models of blood vessels and stents are helping to determine better shapes and materials for the tubes. These models are so accurate that the FDA is considering requiring... |

2008-Aug-28 • 8 minutesSteering Towards EfficiencyThe racing team is just as important to a car.s finish as the driver is. With little to separate competitors over hundreds of laps, teams search for any technological edge that will propel them to Victory Lane. Of special use today is computational fluid dynamics, which is used to predict airflow over a car, both alone and in relation to other cars (for example, when drafting). Engineers also rely on more basic subjects, such as calculus and geometry, to improve their cars. In fact, one racing team engineer... |

2008-Jun-05 • 8 minutesGoing with the Floes - Part 4Sea ice is one of the least understood components of our climate. Naturally its abundance or scarcity is a telling sign of climate change, but sea ice is also an important actor in change as well, insulating the ocean and reflecting sunlight. A branch of mathematics called percolation theory helps explain how salt water travels through sea ice, a process that is crucial both to the amount of sea ice present and to the microscopic communities that sustain polar ecosystems. By taking samples, doing on-site ex... |

2008-Jun-05 • 11 minutesGoing with the Floes - Part 3Sea ice is one of the least understood components of our climate. Naturally its abundance or scarcity is a telling sign of climate change, but sea ice is also an important actor in change as well, insulating the ocean and reflecting sunlight. A branch of mathematics called percolation theory helps explain how salt water travels through sea ice, a process that is crucial both to the amount of sea ice present and to the microscopic communities that sustain polar ecosystems. By taking samples, doing on-site ex... |

2008-Jun-05 • 10 minutesGoing with the Floes - Part 1Sea ice is one of the least understood components of our climate. Naturally its abundance or scarcity is a telling sign of climate change, but sea ice is also an important actor in change as well, insulating the ocean and reflecting sunlight. A branch of mathematics called percolation theory helps explain how salt water travels through sea ice, a process that is crucial both to the amount of sea ice present and to the microscopic communities that sustain polar ecosystems. By taking samples, doing on-site ex... |

2008-Jun-05 • 5 minutesHearing a Master.s VoiceThe spools of wire below contain the only known live recording of the legendary folk singer Woody Guthrie. A mathematician, Kevin Short, was part of a team that used signal processing techniques associated with chaotic music compression to recapture the live performance, which was often completely unintelligible. The modern techniques employed, instead of resulting in a cold, digital output, actually retained the original concert.s warmth and depth. As a result, Short and the team received a Grammy Award fo... |

2008-Jun-05 • 8 minutesGoing with the Floes - Part 2Sea ice is one of the least understood components of our climate. Naturally its abundance or scarcity is a telling sign of climate change, but sea ice is also an important actor in change as well, insulating the ocean and reflecting sunlight. A branch of mathematics called percolation theory helps explain how salt water travels through sea ice, a process that is crucial both to the amount of sea ice present and to the microscopic communities that sustain polar ecosystems. By taking samples, doing on-site ex... |

2008-Apr-14 • 8 minutesBending It Like BernoulliThe colored "strings" you see represent air flow around the soccer ball, with the dark blue streams behind the ball signifying a low-pressure wake. Computational fluid dynamics and wind tunnel experiments have shown that there is a transition point between smooth and turbulent flow at around 30 mph, which can dramatically change the path of a kick approaching the net as its speed decreases through the transition point. Players taking free-kicks need not be mathematicians to score, but knowing the results ob... |

2008-Feb-14 • 8 minutesTripping the Light-FantasticInvisibility is no longer confined to fiction. In a recent experiment, microwaves were bent around a cylinder and returned to their original trajectories, rendering the cylinder almost invisible at those wavelengths. This doesn't mean that we're ready for invisible humans (or spaceships), but by using Maxwell's equations, which are partial differential equations fundamental to electromagnetics, mathematicians have demonstrated that in some simple cases not seeing is believing, too. Part of this successful ... |

2008-Feb-14 • 8 minutesUnearthing Power LinesVotes are cast by the full membership in each house of Congress, but much of the important maneuvering occurs in committees. Graph theory and linear algebra are two mathematics subjects that have revealed a level of organization in Congress groups of committees above the known levels of subcommittees and committees. The result is based on strong connections between certain committees that can be detected by examining their memberships, but which were virtually unknown until uncovered by mathematical analysi... |

2008-Feb-14 • 8 minutesMaking Votes CountThe outcome of elections that offer more than two alternatives but with no preference by a majority, is determined more by the voting procedure used than by the votes themselves. Mathematicians have shown that in such elections, illogical results are more likely than not. For example, the majority of this group want to go to a warm place, but the South Pole is the group.s plurality winner. So if these people choose their group.s vacation destination in the same way most elections are conducted, they will al... |

2008-Feb-14 • 8 minutesFolding for Fun and FunctionOrigami paper-folding may not seem like a subject for mathematical investigation or one with sophisticated applications, yet anyone who has tried to fold a road map or wrap a present knows that origami is no trivial matter. Mathematicians, computer scientists, and engineers have recently discovered that this centuries-old subject can be used to solve many modern problems.The methods of origami are now used to fold objects such as automobile air bags and huge space telescopes efficiently, and may be related ... |

2007-Dec-26 • 7 minutesPinpointing StyleA team examining digital photos of drawings used modern mathematical transforms known as wavelets to quantify attributes of a collection of 16th century master.s drawings. The analysis revealed measurable differences between authentic drawings and imitations, clustering the former away from the latter. This is an impressive feat for the non-experts and their model, yet the team agrees that its work, like mathematics itself, is not designed to replace humans, but to assist them. |

2007-Dec-26 • 12 minutesPredicting Storm SurgeStorm surge is often the most devastating part of a hurricane. Mathematical models used to predict surge must incorporate the effects of winds, atmospheric pressure, tides, waves and river flows, as well as the geometry and topography of the coastal ocean and the adjacent floodplain. Equations from fluid dynamics describe the movement of water, but most often such huge systems of equations need to be solved by numerical analysis in order to better forecast where potential flooding will occur. |

2007-Dec-26 • 9 minutesPutting Music on the MapMathematics and music have long been closely associated. Now a recent mathematical breakthrough uses topology (a generalization of geometry) to represent musical chords as points in a space called an orbifold, which twists and folds back on itself much like a Mobius strip does. This representation makes sense musically in that sounds that are far apart in one sense yet similar in another, such as two notes that are an octave apart, are identified in the space.This latest insight provides a way to analyze an... |

2007-Dec-26 • 8 minutesFinding Fake PhotosActually, they weren.t caught together at all their images were put together with software. The shadows cast by the stars. faces give it away: The sun is coming from two different directions on the same beach! More elaborate digital doctoring is detected with mathematics. Calculus, linear algebra, and statistics are especially useful in determining when a portion of one image has been copied to another or when part of an image has been replaced. |

2007-Dec-26 • 9 minutesTargeting TumorsDetection and treatment of cancer have progressed, but neither is as precise as doctors would like. For example, tumors can change shape or location between pre-operative diagnosis and treatment so that radiation is aimed at a target which may have moved. Geometry, partial differential equations, and integer linear programming are three areas of mathematics used to process data in real-time, which allows doctors to inflict maximum damage to the tumor, with minimum damage to healthy tissue. |

2005-Jun-15 • 7 minutesMaking Movies Come AliveMany movie animation techniques are based on mathematics. Characters, background, and motion are all created using software that combines pixels into geometric shapes which are stored and manipulated using the mathematics of computer graphics. |