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Touring the Rio Olympics

I’m a sportswriter who is bound for the Olympics, and I’m writing an article about maximizing the number of events I see in a particular day. I thought the input of a mathematician with expertise in these matters would be helpful to the story. This was an interesting start to day a month ago.  I […]

The American Scientist Magazine Understands Nothing about the Traveling Salesman Problem

I like to think there are some solid foundations to my life. I will be able to do the Monday New York Times crossword and I will not be able to do the Thursday version. My dental hygienist will not be satisfied with the amount of flossing I do. I will get my favorite spaghetti […]

Complete Enumeration Arguments Deemed Harmful…

… or “The Traveling Salesman Problem is Not That Hard”. When I talk to people about what I do for a living, I often face blank stares (or, worse, rapidly retreating backs) when I describe problems like the Traveling Salesman Problem. Me: “Well, suppose the dots on this napkin represent cities, and you want to […]

Death to Data Hogs! Ooops, that’s us!

The New York Times has an article on the concentration of use of mobile airwaves.  It seems that 1% of the users consume half the bandwidth: The world’s congested mobile airwaves are being divided in a lopsided manner, with 1 percent of consumers generating half of all traffic. The top 10 percent of users, meanwhile, are […]

The Plight of the Traveling Politician

Bill Cook, Professor at Georgia Tech, has an article in the “Campaign Stops” blog of the New York Times outlining the plight of the candidates vying for the Republican nomination for the U.S. presidency currently campaigning in Iowa.  It is a quirk of American politics that  a small state can take on outsized importance in […]

Can the New York Times Magazine Please Hire a Mathematically Literate Editor?

The New York Times Magazine provides almost inexhaustible fodder for this blog.  Recently I have written about prostates, cell phones, and ketogenic diets, based on articles in the Magazine.  Normally the articles are well researched and provocative.  But sometimes things seem to go a bit haywire in the editing process, and the Magazine lets through stuff that it really […]

Prostates and Probabilities

After a few years hiatus, I finally got back to seeing a doctor for an annual physical last week.  For a 51-year-old male with a fondness for beer, I am in pretty good shape.  Overweight (but weighing a bit less than six months ago), pretty good blood pressure (123/83), no cholesterol issues, all without the […]

Operations Research: The Sort of Decisions That Will Get You Fired

I just saw an ad for “Moneyball”, a new movie based on the book by Michael Lewis. A baseball manager (Billy Beane of the Oakland Athletics) used analytics (“Sabremetrics” in the baseball world) to choose players who were undervalued by the rest of the baseball world.  Beane had a constrained optimization problem:  he had to […]

Maybe Analytics is not the Future for Operations Research

There is a lot of discussion on the role the word “analytics” should play in operations research. As a field, we have always had a bit of an identity issue. Perhaps “analytics” is the way we should go. Generally, I am supportive of this: I am part of a group that put together a “Business […]

Puppetry, Turf Management, and Operations Research

CNN and careerbuilder.com have put out a list of six unusual college degrees. I checked it out, expecting to see Carnegie Mellon’s own offering in this area: bagpiping. But bagpiping was not unusual enough to make this list. After possibilities for racetrack management and packaging (“Don’t think outside the box: think about the box”), there […]