By Kat Kerlin
Did you ever pass an orchard with branches bursting with flowers and wonder how the trees “know” when to blossom or bear fruit all at the same time? Or perhaps you’ve walked through the woods, crunching loads of acorns underfoot one year but almost none the next year.
A new study shows why pistachio trees are like magnets, mathematically speaking.
Scientists from the University of California, Davis, have given such synchronicity considerable thought. In 2015, they developed a computer model showing that one of the most famous models in statistical physics, the Ising model, could be used to understand why events occur at the same time over long distances.
By Aditi Risbud Bartl
Sometimes, one darn thing leads to another in a series of cascading failures. Understanding the weak points that lead to such cascades could help us make better investments in preventing them.
Professor Raissa D’Souza in the UC Davis College of Engineering studies complex systems and how they can go wrong.
In the Nov. 17 issue of Science, Raissa D’Souza, professor of computer science and mechanical and aerospace engineering at UC Davis, wrote a perspective article about cascading failures that arise from the reorganization of flows on a network, such as in electric power grids, supply chains and transportation networks.
If you’ve ever tried to untangle a pair of earbuds, you’ll understand how loops and cords can get twisted up. DNA can get tangled in the same way. In this episode of Three Minute Egghead, UC Davis biomathematician Mariel Vazquez talks about her work on the math of how DNA can be cut and reconnected. The math involved turns out to be involved in other fields as well — from fluid dynamics to solar flares.
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Applying mathematics to detect chemical weapons, hidden explosives or other threats is the goal of an ongoing project at the UC Davis Department of Mathematics, supported by grants from the National Science Foundation.
Blind deconvolution is a mathematical method to clarify a blurred image without knowledge of the original image, or how it was blurred. Top, original image; bottom, blurred image after blind deconvolution (Original image by Steve Byland).
Threat detection involves math at a range of levels, said Professor Thomas Strohmer, who leads the project. It can include quickly processing large amounts of data, coordinating multiple sensors, or extracting clarity from background noise.
Full post: NSF Grant Funds Math For National Security
(455 words, 1 image, estimated 1:49 mins reading time)
Hobby 3-D Printing Leads to New Insights into Moving Sofa Problem
By Becky Oskin
Most of us have struggled with the mathematical puzzle known as the “moving sofa problem.” It poses a deceptively simple question: What is the largest sofa that can pivot around an L-shaped hallway corner?
A mover will tell you to just stand the sofa on end. But imagine the sofa is impossible to lift, squish or tilt. Although it still seems easy to solve, the moving sofa problem has stymied math sleuths for more than 50 years. That’s because the challenge for mathematicians is both finding the largest sofa and proving it to be the largest. Without a proof, it’s always possible someone will come along with a better solution.
With gold medals in three sprinting events at three Olympic Games, Usain Bolt has written himself into the record books as arguably the fastest human of all time. But just how fast is the Jamaican sprinter?
Three mathematicians, Sebastian Schreiber of UC Davis, Wayne Getz of UC Berkeley and Karl Smith of Santa Rosa Junior College, show how to calculate Bolt’s maximum velocity in the 100 meters at the 2008 Beijing Olympics in their 2014 textbook, “Calculus for the Life Sciences.”
This plot shows Usain Bolt’s velocity measured at 10 meter intervals.
Full post: Calculating just how fast Usain Bolt runs
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Big Data has a problem right now. We produce an avalanche of information every day by just walking around with our smartphones or posting on social media. Researchers in the social sciences today are collaborating across disciplines to turn this wealth of information into knowledge.
Martin Hilbert, an assistant professor of communication at UC Davis, is developing new ways to think about how social scientists can use this data to understand societies. In this Q&A, he discusses what Big Data and living in an information society could mean for our social evolution.
Read the Q&A at the ISS website: http://socialscience.ucdavis.edu/iss-journal/research/turning-big-data-into-big-knowledge.
By Kat Kerlin
How does an acorn know to fall when the other acorns do? What triggers insects, or disease, to suddenly break out over large areas? Why do fruit trees have boom and bust years?
The question of what generates such synchronous, ecological “flash mobs” over long distances has long perplexed population ecologists. Part of the answer has to do with something seemingly unrelated: what makes a magnet a magnet.
2013 Nobel laureate Michael Levitt of Stanford University will headline a one-day workshop on mathematics and biology to be held at UC Davis Nov. 22. Biology and Mathematics in the Bay Area aims at “creating a fairly informal atmosphere to explore the role of mathematics in biology,” according to the advance flyer. “Our goal is to encourage dialogue between researchers and students from different disciplines in an atmosphere that promotes the open exchange of ideas and viewpoints.”
Also speaking: Ileana Streinu at Smith College; Sean Mooney, Buck Institute; Sharon Aviran and Steve Kowalczykowski, UC Davis.