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Canadian Algorithms, eh?

The Globe and Mail, Canada’s answer to the New York Times, has an article on “algorithms” in their technology section (thanks Dad for the pointer!).  They give a number of very good examples of work being done by Ontario researchers that illustrates the range of application:

For example, Dr. Terlaky [director of McMaster University’s School of Computational Engineering and Science in Hamilton, Ont] says his school and a team from the University of Waterloo are working with oncologists from Toronto’s Princess Margaret Hospital to find the optimal level of radiation that can be used in treating liver cancer.

“We are working with Dr. Laura Dawson, a PMH oncologist, to find out how much radiation is most effective,” he says.

“Laura Dawson doesn’t understand the math but she doesn’t need to. She knows the treatment – we know the math.”

The drivers behind all this are faster computers and more data:

What has propelled the giant leaps forward in creating mathematical formulas to increase accuracy is a happy combination of data and computing power.

The data becomes the basis for analysis; the more of it available to sift through, the greater the accuracy.

The power and speed of today’s computers means computational tasks that would have taken decades in the 1990s can be done in a matter of minutes today.

“Today, thanks to computational science we can produce huge savings for industry, more effective diagnosis and treatment for medicine, better design for products and better management of resources,” Dr. Terlaky says.

“These great advances come at a time when almost all organizations have accumulated masses of data,” says Rotman’s Dr. Baron, associate professor of operations management. “It becomes historical data which can be analyzed to predict the future.

“Mathematical models are bound to play a greater role in business and even personal decision making,” Dr. Baron predicts.

I suppose I could go off complaining that the words “operations research” are never used, but instead I will be happy that a few million Canadians know a bit more about our field today.