In DepthScience in Society

Pacific Rim mathematicians coaxed from their ivory towers

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Science  06 Nov 2015:
Vol. 350, Issue 6261, pp. 616
DOI: 10.1126/science.350.6261.616

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In popular culture, mathematicians are portrayed as the most aloof of academics. But increasing numbers of academic mathematicians are applying their knowledge and skills to industrial challenges. This trend is now catching on in the Asia-Pacific region, with countries supporting new institutes, grant programs, and brainstorming sessions. Mathematicians in Japan are working with corporate partners to apply stochastic differential equations to manage financial transactions, group theory to improve computer graphics, and topology—the study of surface deformation—to optimize steelmaking. Their South Korean counterparts are modeling how drugs reach target organs, developing new approaches to analyzing big data sets, and delving into the complex geometry of computer animation. In New Zealand, math specialists are at work thwarting shoplifters and even helping grass grow.