Archive for the ‘math news’ Category

VC Firms Use Big Data to Seek Out the Next Big Thing

April 25, 2017

Venture Capital firms, that is, firms that invest in funding start-ups, early stage  companies, and companies with good growth potential, are always on the hunt for the next great opportunity.  The article below talks about the trend away from people who are expert in spotting such opportunities, and towards computer based analytics which is believed to be faster and better at finding the “next big thing.”

Venture-Capital Firms Use Big Data to Seek Out the Next Big Thing – WSJ


Liberal Arts Become Mathematical

April 25, 2017

“Adding Math To Save Humanities” is the title of a sidebar article in the Wall Street Journal, April 25, 2017, about liberal arts colleges trying to add more mathematical contents to traditional liberal arts courses to better prepare their graduates for the work world.  Along with the Big Data revolution comes the need for employees in many diverse fields to be able to analyze data and to “rigorously and effectively” use data to answer questions.  “Emory University in Atlanta has created a degree that marries traditionally qualitative disciplines such as anthropology and English with math and statistics.”  This shift is in part to due students enrolling in liberal arts programs in smaller numbers.  Click below for the full article.

saving liberal arts

Economics Should be Required in High School

March 3, 2017

Economics is so basic and essential for good citizenship and good personal decisions, that it is a shame high school students can graduate without even being exposed to the subject.  An article by high schooler Benjamin Auslin from Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring, Maryland, makes a strong argument that understanding supply and demand, the time value of money, return on investment and the basics of personal finance are skills that would well serve the graduates and society.


20% error rate found in study of published genetics research papers

September 13, 2016

In a recent study 20% of genetics research papers using Microsoft Excel have been found to have data errors due to improper data entry.  It turns out that gene names such as SEPT2 and MARCH1 (these are actual gene name abbreviations used by scientists) get converted to dates by Excel and then result in rejected data.  The problem is resolvable if the scientists would make sure the data cells were formatted as “Text,” prior to entering the data.

For the full article in the Washington Post click on the link below.

Percent by weight or volume? Big difference!

March 27, 2016

When researching quartz counter tops, I discovered that this man made material is made from ground up quartz with a polyester resin binder material.  Wanting to know how much stone and how much resin, I read further to find out that the material is approximately 93% stone and 7% resin.  I was having a hard time visualizing how such a small amount of binder could work.

Reading further I discovered that the  93% and 7% is based on the weight of the components, but since the stone is much heavier per volume than the polyester resin binder, the percentages by volume should be different, and indeed they are.

By volume, it turns out that the same material calculates to 66% quartz and 34% resin binder.  Big difference.


Using Big Data to Predict Worker Illness and Pregnancies

February 29, 2016

Not a typographical error!  Companies who hire outside consultants are able to get data about their workforce that borders on a serious intrusion of privacy.  Click below for the whole WSJ article, but just a few quotes might give the sense of what I am talking about.

Bosses Tap Outside Firms to Predict Which Workers Might Get Sick – WSJ

“Trying to stem rising health-care costs, some companies, including retailer Wal-Mart Stores Inc., are paying firms like Castlight Healthcare Inc. to collect and crunch employee data to identify, for example, which workers are at risk for diabetes, and target them with personalized messages nudging them toward a doctor or services such as weight-loss programs.”

“To determine which employees might soon get pregnant, Castlight recently launched a new product that scans insurance claims to find women who have stopped filling birth-control prescriptions, as well as women who have made fertility-related searches on Castlight’s health app.”

“Privacy advocates have raised concerns about such practices. Employees generally have a choice in whether to participate in the programs. The services are new enough that relatively few workers are aware of them.”

“Federal health-privacy laws generally bar employers from viewing workers’ personal health information, though self-insured employers have more leeway, says Careen Martin, a health-care and cybersecurity lawyer at Nilan Johnson Lewis PA. Instead, employers contract with wellness firms who have access to workers’ health data.”

A New Biggest Prime Found

January 24, 2016

A new biggest prime number has been found.  It is called a Mersenne Prime because it can be written as 2^(74,207,281)-1.  It is so large that it defies comprehension.

As written in the New York Times

“How big is this big prime number?

I timed how quickly I could write down a number: about four seconds for 10 digits. If I had enough paper and ink — and made the impossible assumption that my hand could maintain this pace — it would take me more than three months to write down the 22,338,618 digits of 274,207,281− 1.”

Mathematical odds of shark bites or being struck by lightening.

August 16, 2015

Your odds of being killed by a shark bite might be 1 in 3.7 million, but what does that mean, and how did they calculate it.

Is it the number of shark bites divided by how many people in the country?  Or, is it the number of shark bites divided by the number of people who visit the ocean?  Or, by the number of people who actually went into the water.

Popular statistics in the news are often misleading, or meaningless without knowing how the statistic was calculated.

The article below from the Wall Street Journal is a great introduction to the idea of conditional probability and statistics in general.  What is the probability of a shark bite, given you live in Denver with no oceans close by?

What Are the Odds_ Long, Most Likely – WSJ