Tag Archives: math

Geeking out on Pi Day

As if the earlier infographic weren’t enough, I have found an interesting set of quotes from math loving scientists on Pi that may interest you. If not, no hard feelings… I hope.

Why do math lovers around the world call March 14 “Pi Day”? Because Pi, the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter, is 3.14. Pi is a Greek letter (π) that represents a constant in math: All circles have the same Pi, regardless of their size. Pi has been calculated out to as many as 1 trillion digits past the decimal, and it can continue forever without repetition or pattern.

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In honor of Pi Day, we, the National Institute of General Medical Scientists, asked several biomedical researchers in the field of computational biology to tell us why they love math and how they use it in their research.

Why do you love math?

The computational biologists we talked to offered similar answers. They love math because it lets them see the world in an ordered way. Tamar Schlick of New York University explained, “Math is essentially logic and order combined and applied to solve problems in interesting and creative ways.” Math’s constant rules allow computational biologists to understand and even predict natural phenomena, including biological processes such as cell behavior and biofilm formation. Andre Levchenko of Yale University added, “This predictive power is one of the coolest aspects of math, helping us understand what otherwise may seem paradoxical or impenetrable.”The researchers described exciting findings that math helped them make; here are a few snippets.

What type of math do you use?

The scientists’ toolbox of mathematical approaches extends far beyond the ones we may remember from high school or college. Computational biologists use different types of math and select one or many based on the problem they’re trying to solve. For example, to study the complex, time-dependent processes occurring in our bodies, scientists use a branch of math called nonlinear dynamics. Several of the researchers we interviewed said they’re still discovering mathematical approaches well-suited for biology. Reinhard Laubenbacher of the University of Connecticut Health Center said he’s proud his team “found ways to use areas of math that are not typically viewed as ‘applicable’ in the context of computational biology, such as abstract algebra and algebraic geometry.” Continue reading

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