Today’s post will be part 2 of the series about the application of mathematics to the eight great technologies, according to the UK government. Click here to read part 1 of this series.
Regenerative medicine studies the molecular and cellular processes that control the development of new, healthy tissue. This field aims to treat and cure diseases by discovering the mechanisms used by nature to restore the structure and function of damaged tissues.
Mathematical modelling can provide “qualitative insight” on how these mechanisms work, as well as help in the development of new flexible materials. Mathematics has other applications to medicine, for example medical statistics and in problems on medical imaging.
Agricultural science is a key part of the world’s food supply system as it researches how we can sustainably, profitably and ethically produce food worldwide. Recently the UN has said that “if the population continues to rise at its present rate, then the world food output must increase by 70% by 2050”, hence agricultural science is more relevant and important than ever.
Thermodynamic and fluid mechanics is essential to understanding the fundamental processes of growing, freezing, cold storing, cooking, freezing and digesting food. Furthermore, the issue of feeding the worlds growing population requires the mathematics of optimisation, an area in computer science and operational research.
Advanced materials and nanotechnology
With modern technology, meta-materials – materials that have a myriad of mechanical, electrical, thermal and other properties – can be manufactured. These are materials that cannot be found naturally in nature.
An example of a meta-material is a material with a negative refractive index, which can therefore cause backward propagation of light.
The mathematics involved in designing such materials is quite complex and challenging, and can be used to analyse materials as ancient as rocks to modern day carbon fibres.
Energy and its storage
Mathematical understanding of stochastic processes is essential in communications science. This is due to the fact that the large number of users gives rise to random patterns of calls, emails, etc., which a network has to be able to deal with. The mathematics developed for communication networks can be applied to energy systems, as explained by Stan Zachary:
“If we integrate renewable energies, such as wind power, in the electricity grid, there will also be uncertainty, as we don’t know what the wind will be doing tomorrow. This will make planning and scheduling much more challenging and it will take sophisticated mathematics to get it right.”
Furthermore electricity must be consumed as soon as it is purchased, as it cannot be stored in large quantities, which presents a further challenge.
These challenges, which mathematicians can combat, are going to increase in the future as we shift towards low-carbon energy supplies, a more distributed supply network, electric vehicles, and the SMART Grid (where users have greater control over their energy demands and in turn supply more information to the grid company).
Let me know what you think about these great technologies! M x