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Mathematics for Big data in ‘Best Writing in Mathematics 2019’

The essay of Nelly Litvak, professor in Algorithms for Complex networks, Faculty of Electrical Engineering, Mathematics and Computer Science, has been selected in this year’s edition of ‘Best Writing in Mathematics’. The essay, ‘Mathematics for Big data’, originally published in `Nieuw Archief voor Wiskunde’, highlights several examples of using mathematics and statistics to analyse problems involving Big data, the mathematics that the general public seems to take for granted. Litvak wrote the essay together with four other researchers of 4TU.

In ‘The Best Writing in Mathematics’ the finest mathematics writing from around the world are brought together. One of the articles that made it to this year’s edition is the essay Litvak wrote in collaboration with colleagues.

Mathematics for Big data

Big data is currently a hot topic both in science and among the general public. Mathematics plays an enormous role in the data-driven world. Extracting information from big data in a brute-force fashion is infeasible in terms of both time and energy. And smarter solutions heavily rely on mathematics.  “The role of mathematics is easy to overlook and not fully recognized because technological advances are much more visible than mathematical advances even though the latter often have more impact”, says Litvak.

In the paper, Litvak and her colleagues – Alessandro Di Bucchianico, Laura Iapichino  (both TU/e), Frank van der Meulen (TU Delft) and Ron Wehrens (WUR) – highlight several essential contributions of the fields of mathematics to big data using successful real-life examples. They explain how search engines use ranking algorithms that define which web pages are most important and in what order they will appear for the user. Other used examples include: weather forecasting, MRI scanners and recommender systems in web shops.

Best Writing in Mathematics

The book Best Writing in Mathematics is an annual bundle of many articles about mathematics from around the world. It features promising new voices alongside some of the foremost names in the field. It aims to make articles not easily found anywhere else available to a wide audience. The articles are easily readable for the general public and you don’t have to be a mathematician to enjoy them. The essay of Litvak and her co-authors can be read here.

Nelly Litvak is a professor in Algorithms for Complex Networks and part of the MOR research group. She is also a part-time professor at Eindhoven University of Technology and a visiting professor at Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology. Her background is in Applied Probability and Stochastic Operations Research. She received her MSc from the Lobachevsky University of Nizhny Novgorod, Russia, in 1995 and her PhD from Eindhoven University of Technology in 2002.

K.W. Wesselink MSc (Kees)
Science Communication Officer (available Mon-Fri)