Drugs You’ll Like

Do you ever feel like computers are reading your mind?

iTunes knows your favorite song even if you haven’t heard it yet, Amazon knows what you were going to buy next, Pandora has the perfect playlist to match your day, Netflix knows what movie you’ll want to see tonight, and Facebook finds your friends before you do.  How do they do it? Algorithms. These days, almost every online store, music-streaming site, online radio, and social-networking site makes recommendations using a complex and eerily accurate algorithm. Now pharmaceutical scientists are following in the footsteps of Pandora and Facebook to bring you their own recommendation lineup: “drugs you’ll like.”  Learn more about the breakthrough ranking method that sorts through thousands of chemical compounds to find “therapeutic needles” in "chemical haystacks.”

Teaching a Computer to “See”

"When Dan Rockmore viewed an exhibit of drawings by Pieter Bruegel the Elder in 2001, he had no idea that his mathematical career was about to change.

"The curator pointed out faked Bruegel drawings so skillfully done that art historians had thought the imitations authentic for decades. Then she showed Rockmore minute idiosyncrasies of the pen strokes in the Bruegel drawings that were different in the fakes. His mathematical imagination was triggered. I could teach a computer to see that, he thought."

And that’s exactly what he did.  Find out how this mathematician made the top science news of 2010.

Sharks Use Math To Hunt

"The great white shark in Jaws knew exactly where it was going — to the closest pair of plump legs around. But where might it head if it didn’t have a tasty human snack in its sights?"

A new study suggests that some sharks and other marine predators follow mathematical strategies when hunting. Especially when food is scarce, these marine animals follow what researchers refer to as a "Lévy walk." This squiggly pattern resembles a fractal, the mathematical phenomenon whose shape remains the same no matter the viewing scale. Biologists have reported Lévy behavior in everything from deer to bumblebees, but many of those studies were flawed. Now, however, researchers have firm evidence for Lévy behavior in 14 species of open-ocean marine predators, including tuna, swordfish, marlin and sharks.