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Advertising Operational Research (but maybe a few updates are in order?)

The Operational Research Society (the U.K. equivalent of INFORMS) has a website about operational research (the U.K. equivalent of operations research) aimed at students and teachers called Learn about OR. This makes a great adjunct to the INFORMS site, the Science of Better, aimed at business. Lots of good examples and good advice about getting into the field.

For portions, however, the site shows the tone-deafness that we in OR often show. Some of the examples might be a little more relevant to a 50-year-old rather than a teenager. Consider the example aimed at 11-14 year olds “OR Inside Your Holiday Snaps”:

It’s highly unlikely that, while you were snapping your holiday photos on the beach, you stopped to think, ‘Is there O.R. inside the film in this camera’? But, in fact, there is!

Photographic film is manufactured in rolls about 6km long by 1m wide, which have to be cut up into complex patterns so as to produce a wide variety of products. The problem of deciding how to cut the rolls is very complicated

What a great example: cutting photographic film is a wonderful example leading to column generation approaches and other advanced math programming methods. Too bad the average twelve year old hasn’t ever seen photographic film. I look forward to examples of fitting music onto cassette tape cartridges and optimal horse rotation for mail delivery.

Despite this cavilling, it is a good site, and the sort of site the world needs more of. There is even a introductory video that covers the range of OR (with instructions for downloading to an ipod).

Thanks Dawen, of ThinkOR, for mentioning the site in a somewhat different context.

{ 1 } Comments

  1. Graham Sharp | June 8, 2009 at 9:29 am | Permalink

    Mike
    Thanks for the generally positive comments about our new site and I take on board the observation about photographic film! This is, of course, a rather hairy old case and I’m working on a more current set of cases that 11 year olds will engage with. (We have ‘fitting tracks on a CD’ in the Exam questions!) You have to concede that we have, at least, heard of the ipod!
    Graham