Mathematics is the language of the universe, and mathematicians can use this language to help people better understand the world. In this extended edition of the Three Minute Egghead podcast, I talked to four UC Davis mathematicians about the problems they work on, why they are important and why they find them fascinating.
- Elena Fuchs: Apollonian Circles to quantum computing
- Evgeny Gorskiy: The geometry of knots
- Luis Rademacher: Signal separation and the blessing of dimensionality
- Becca Thomases: Non-Newtonian fluids, lungs and swimming microbes
Full post: Four on the Frontiers of Mathematics
(152 words, 1 image, estimated 36 secs reading time)
Digital information may appear to exist as abstract ones and zeroes, flipping effortlessly from one to another. But in fact there is a minimum amount of energy required to run any computation system, regardless of how “energy efficient” are its component parts. A recent paper from Jim Crutchfield and Alex Boyd at the UC Davis Complexity Sciences Center with Dibyendu Mandal at UC Berkeley shows that there is some inescapable friction, or “grit in the gears” between the levels of organization in an information system.
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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Permanent link to this post
(93 words, estimated 22 secs reading time)
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
(331 words, 3 images, estimated 1:19 mins reading time)