The role of mathematics in the real world
In response to whether they think math is useful in the real world or not, I think many people would answer “yes”. However, there would also be a few people who are hard pressed to find and answer when asked to be specific in what ways they think math is useful. This is because they possibly haven’t quite noticed that mathematics penetrates the so-called fields of social sciences, not to mention the natural sciences, and contributes to them.
Let me give you an example you may be familiar with. When shopping at a convenience store, the barcode printed on the product is scanned and the sum is charged. The barcode isn’t only there to calculate the price, it also sends information on the purchased product and time of purchase etc. to the convenience store headquarters instantaneously. Furthermore, when a point card is produced, the purchaser’s gender and age etc. are known, indispensible information for marketing strategies such as product development and product delivery times. Because huge amounts of this data comes up on a daily basis, how to effectively extract and read beneficial information and patterns from large volumes and large scale data is the key to setting up marketing strategies. Various data analysis methods developed in statistical science and machine learning are used for this purpose.
Mathematics is essential to actuarial science and pension mathematics professionals called actuaries. Furthermore, in practical implementation of mobile phones, codes using algebra and number theory, security and information compression technology are indispensable. Geometry is put to use in the visualization of animation production and computer graphics, and conformational analysis of protein in life science. Mathematical analysis, numerical analysis and mathematical computation are essential for control technology needed to safely start, run and stop automobiles, and practical implementation of the most environmentally friendly cars such as electric cars and hybrids. Furthermore, mathematics and mathematical sciences comes in useful in a variety of fields such as unraveling the mechanisms of traffic jams, telecommunications technology, virus displacement predictions, disease predictions and development of new medicines in genome data analysis, and high precision spam detection in search engines. I think we can see the reason behind mathematics being called the common language of science.
Technology that learns from the past, and then predicts and controls future phenomena
In the high-speed information technology environment of the 21st century, I think that everybody has experienced the rapid improvements in lifestyle convenience. However, in today’s society where it is becoming ever more complex and uncertain, it is a fact that we are living our lives while being surrounded by various risks at all times. For example, the risk of having an automobile accident, the risk of damage from earthquakes or other disasters such as typhoons which frequently hit our country, or the risk of contracting a lifestyle disease, the list is endless. There was a huge outcry when the Great East Japan Earthquake and Fukushima nuclear accident was taken to be a risk beyond expectations. Even when the probability of occurrence is extremely low, if you multiply the cost for the damage, the numbers appear colossal.
When introducing mathematical theorem, there is no such word as beyond expectations. Every possibility is identified and a single theorem is constructed. For this reason, mathematics is said to be a useful study for acquiring logical thinking. As well as working out how mathematical results can be useful in society, I believe it is necessary to look at the importance of mathematics as a study that nurtures logical thinking for making appropriate predictions for the future in today’s complicated world.
We may still require a lot of time to acquire technology that studies the past and predicts and controls future phenomena. I believe that mathematics and mathematical science, as a study which analyzes risks associated with nuclear power, hydrogen infrastructure, and space systems, and provides useful problem-solving technology in the sciences such as seismology that wages battle against nature, and meteorology, has an increasingly important role to play.
Mathematics supporting the foundations of science and industrial technology
The rapid improvements of high-level development and user environments of both hardware and software of calculators in recent years, in various scientific fields such as life science, information technology and nano-technology, has undergone tremendous changes at a pace we could never have envisaged while the creation of new fields of study continue. Amidst that transformation, the academic needs of mathematics and mathematical science have intensified rapidly. At the same time, problems posed in each field provide feedback for mathematics, leading to expectations for the development of new academic fields within the framework of mathematics.
Under these circumstances, the strong call for the necessity of mathematics in circumstances surrounding mathematical research in major countries and the sciences in Japan, and the necessity for promotion of joint research with other fields was concurrently recommended as policy in 2006 in the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology National Institute of Science and Technology Policy report The Forgotten Science-Mathematics and the Mathematical Society of Japan and Science Council of Japan Mathematics Committee symposium Foundation Study: Mathematics –Cooperation Between Mathematical Research and the Sciences and Industrial Technology. This gave rise to new doubts into the way of mathematical research, and can be said to be the catalyst for mathematical researchers rediscovering the importance of mathematics as a study supporting the foundation of the sciences and industrial technology.
New activities of university mathematical research and educational organizations
Giving impetus to this policy proposal are the results being provided by mathematics research and educational organizations of several universities through cooperation with science and industrial technologies. At Kyushu University, a new research organization, Math-for-Industry, was set up in April 2011. This was developed to respond to the requests from the industrial world with the purpose of giving liquidity and general versatility to mathematics by fusing and restructuring pure and practical mathematics. That means there was certainly an aim to construct an academic system to support the foundations of mathematic sciences and industrial technology, with the hope of forming a research and educational base to appropriately respond to the demands of society. At the same time there is training of young human resources with an eye to the future, and in mathematics education at graduate schools, three month or longer long-term internships have been set based on industry-academia cooperation in never-seen-before characteristic curriculums which continue to produce great educational results.
In mathematics departments there are many students who enter with the aim of becoming teachers, however in today’s society there is a wide range of businesses such as IT (information technology) related businesses, pharmaceuticals, insurance, finance, electronics, and automobiles, where students with mathematical knowledge are in demand. At Chuo University’s Faculty of Science and Engineering Department of Mathematics, we aim to produce competent human resources who can be active in society with a high level of mathematical knowledge and computing skills. Using the knowledge one has gained as a weapon, enthusiasm in creating your own road where there are no roads is important. Work hard at university and graduate school to acquire the knowledge for stepping out into the world, and I hope we can produce many human resources who hold a challenging spirit and are involved in solving problems in the sciences.
Professor of Statistical Science, Faculty of Science and Engineering, Chuo University
Born in Okayama Prefecture in 1948. Graduated from the Department of Mathematics, Faculty of Science, Hiroshima University in 1972. Completed his Master’s degree from the Graduate School of Science, Hiroshima University in 1974. Left his doctorate course in the Graduate School of Science, Hiroshima University in 1974 (Doctor of Science). Began his position as professor at Chuo University in 2010 after working as assistant professor at the Faculty of Science, Hiroshima University, associate professor at the Ministry of Education, Science, Sports and Culture Institute of Statistical Mathematics, and professor at the Faculty of Mathematics, Kyushu University. His current topics of research include multivariate analysis, nonlinear modeling, Bayesian modeling, and machine learning. Major publications include, Introduction to Multivariate Analysis – Bridging from linear to nonlinear (sole author, Iwanami Shoten, 2010), Information Criteria and Statistical Modeling (coauthored, Springer New York, 2008), Computational Statistics – Bootstrap, EM algorithm, MCMC (coauthored, Asakura Shoten, 2008). Recipient of the 2004 Japan Statistical Society Prize and the Commendation for Science and Technology by the Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Prize for Science and Technology (Research Category) in 2009.