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Apr 14, 2020

Timing of large earthquakes follows a ‘devil’s staircase’ pattern

Posted by in category: mathematics

At the regional level and worldwide, the occurrence of large shallow earthquakes appears to follow a mathematical pattern called the Devil’s Staircase, where clusters of earthquake events are separated by long but irregular intervals of seismic quiet.

The finding published in the Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America differs from the pattern predicted by classical modeling that suggests earthquakes would occur periodically or quasi-periodically based on cycles of build-up and release of tectonic stress. In fact, say Yuxuan Chen of the University of Missouri, Columbia, and colleagues, periodic large earthquake sequences are relatively rare.

The researchers note that their results could have implications for seismic hazard assessment. For instance, they found that these large earthquake sequences (those with events magnitude 6.0 or greater) are “burstier” than expected, meaning that the clustering of earthquakes in time results in a higher probability of repeating seismic events soon after a large earthquake. The irregular gap between event bursts also makes it more difficult to predict an average recurrence time between big earthquakes.

Apr 14, 2020

A Mathematical Model Unlocks the Secrets of Vision

Posted by in category: mathematics

Mathematicians and neuroscientists have created the first anatomically accurate model that explains how vision is possible.

Apr 14, 2020

This Guy Says He Solved the Most Controversial Open Problem in Math

Posted by in category: mathematics

Has one of the major outstanding problems in number theory finally been solved? Or is the 600-page proof missing a key piece? The verdict isn’t in yet, but the proof, at least, will finally appear in a peer-reviewed journal.

However, there’s just one catch: the mathematician himself, Shinichi Mochizuki, is one of the journal’s seniormost editors.

Apr 13, 2020

Using artificial intelligence to search for new exotic particles

Posted by in categories: entertainment, information science, mathematics, particle physics, robotics/AI, transportation

Nowadays, artificial neural networks have an impact on many areas of our day-to-day lives. They are used for a wide variety of complex tasks, such as driving cars, performing speech recognition (for example, Siri, Cortana, Alexa), suggesting shopping items and trends, or improving visual effects in movies (e.g., animated characters such as Thanos from the movie Infinity War by Marvel).

Traditionally, algorithms are handcrafted to solve complex tasks. This requires experts to spend a significant amount of time to identify the optimal strategies for various situations. Artificial neural networks — inspired by interconnected neurons in the brain — can automatically learn from data a close-to-optimal solution for the given objective. Often, the automated learning or “training” required to obtain these solutions is “supervised” through the use of supplementary information provided by an expert. Other approaches are “unsupervised” and can identify patterns in the data. The mathematical theory behind artificial neural networks has evolved over several decades, yet only recently have we developed our understanding of how to train them efficiently. The required calculations are very similar to those performed by standard video graphics cards (that contain a graphics processing unit or GPU) when rendering three-dimensional scenes in video games.

Apr 13, 2020

The Math That Tells Cells What They Are

Posted by in category: mathematics

During development, cells seem to decode their fate through optimal information processing, which could hint at a more general principle of life.

Apr 12, 2020

Coronavirus Is Changing How We Live, Work, and Use Tech—Permanently

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, information science, mathematics

Within a week, many world leaders went from downplaying the seriousness of coronavirus to declaring a state of emergency. Even the most efficacious of nations seem to be simultaneously confused and exasperated, with delayed responses revealing incompetence and inefficiency the world over.

So this begs the question: why is it so difficult for us to comprehend the scale of what an unmitigated global pandemic could do? The answer likely relates to how we process abstract concepts like exponential growth. Part of the reason we’ve struggled so much applying basic math to our practical environment is because humans think linearly. But like much of technology, biological systems such as viruses can grow exponentially.

As we scramble to contain and fight the pandemic, we’ve turned to technology as our saving grace. In doing so, we’ve effectively hit a “fast-forward” button on many tech trends that were already in place. From remote work and virtual events to virus-monitoring big data, technologies that were perhaps only familiar to a fringe tech community are now entering center stage—and as tends to be the case with wartime responses, these changes are likely here to stay.

Continue reading “Coronavirus Is Changing How We Live, Work, and Use Tech—Permanently” »

Apr 8, 2020

Graced With Knowledge, Mathematicians Seek to Understand

Posted by in categories: computing, mathematics

A landmark proof in computer science has also solved an important problem called the Connes embedding conjecture. Mathematicians are working to understand it.

Apr 8, 2020

Does Time Really Flow? New Clues Come From a Century-Old Approach to Math

Posted by in categories: mathematics, physics

The laws of physics imply that the passage of time is an illusion. To avoid this conclusion, we might have to rethink the reality of infinitely precise numbers.

Apr 5, 2020

Researchers Solve One of the Most Notorious Open Problems in Math

Posted by in categories: economics, mathematics

Mathematicians from the California Institute of Technology have solved an old problem related to a mathematical process called a random walk.

The team, which also worked with a colleague from Israel’s Ben-Gurion University, solved the problem in a rush after having a realization one evening. Lead author Omer Tamuz studies both economics and mathematics, using probability theory and ergodic theory as the link—a progressive and blended approach that this year’s Abel Prize-winning mathematicians helped to trailblaze.

Apr 5, 2020

Coronavirus: tensions rise over scientists at heart of lockdown policy

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, finance, government, mathematics, policy

The Royal Society is to create a network of disease modelling groups amid academic concern about the nation’s reliance on a single group of epidemiologists at Imperial College London whose predictions have dominated government policy, including the current lockdown.

It is to bring in modelling experts from fields as diverse as banking, astrophysics and the Met Office to build new mathematical representations of how the coronavirus epidemic is likely to spread across the UK — and how the lockdown can be ended.

The first public signs of academic tensions over Imperial’s domination of the debate came when Sunetra Gupta, professor of theoretical epidemiology at Oxford University, published a paper suggesting that some of Imperial’s key assumptions could be wrong.

Continue reading “Coronavirus: tensions rise over scientists at heart of lockdown policy” »

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