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From SNS to movie CG, we owe a lot to math

Posted March. 02, 2017 07:12,   

Updated March. 02, 2017 07:20


“It’s boring. What good is it? It’s nothing more than an SAT subject.” It has been a while since mathematics has become a nuisance in Korea.

Still, mathematics is one of the most important subjects not only in Korea, but also in most of the countries. There is a saying that mathematics is indeed the “language,” which to logically understand the world and the “tool” to lead technological and industrial development. Then how does math really bring benefit in our daily lives? A peek on the “Mathematical Moments” introduced by the American Mathematical Society tells us how math plays in our society.

Math enables Social Networking Service (SNS), which has become an inseparable service for modern people. For instance, “Find Friends” featured in Facebook is implemented backed by linear programming and graph theory. The two mathematical theories analyze 70 billion connections, which 700 million Facebook users create, and save half the time looking for one's acquaintances and reduce network traffic by one third.

Mathematics also applies to movies, animations, and video games. As a branch of the mathematics, geometry, calculus, and linear algebra design characters and scenes inside the screen in three dimensional and realistic visuals. In the digitally created animation movie “Avatar,” reflections and refractions, hairs, skin textures and many others were created thanks to geometry, linear algebra, partial differential equation and vector analysis.

Math helps domestic consumers purchasing goods directly from overseas sellers as well. Translation services often used when buying from a foreign website also works on probability theory, statistics, and graph theory. By analyzing and matching billions of words and phrases inside numerous languages, math bridges the gap between languages.

Another area where math is commonly used is sports. By using differential equation and vector analysis, one can design a uniform to minimize external resistance. Math also tells an athlete the optimal angle to throw the javelin for the farthest distance. Furthermore, math contributes significantly in the development of medicine. By applying the graph theory, the mathematical algorithm helps patients find the most optimal donor as soon as possible for their upcoming kidney transplant. Cancer treatment also relies on geometry, partial differential equation, and integer linear programming as well. By processing data real-time, medical teams can come up with the most optimal oncotherapy.

The Global Positioning System (GPS) never would have seen the light of day if it was not for mathematics. While GPS became a given thing in our daily lives, most of the functions were from arithmetic, algebra and geometry.

Ji-Won Noh zone@donga.com