Algorithms for a New World by Alfio Quarteroni, review

Algorithms for a New World by Alfio Quarteroni, review

Algorithms for a New World by Alfio Quarteroni

It is well known that mathematics is one of those subjects that are difficult to love if one is not driven by a healthy and natural passion, perhaps also supported by a good propensity towards scientific subjects in general, which are often seen as complex and inscrutable; this perceived complexity, however, is in stark contrast to what is instead the real objective of scientific studies: to make understandable concepts that, otherwise, could easily be associated with witchcraft.

Since man gave birth to the first form of religion because it is not yet able to explain the phenomenon of eclipses, science has made giant steps, definitively detaching itself from that aura of supernatural mystery, seeking answers that were at the same time more rational and demonstrable than the simple belief that certain phenomena were attributable to divine, diabolical or witchcraft intervention.

However, the fact that mathematical and scientific language is rather sectorial and complex alienates many people from these subjects. But how to explain the scientific results achieved so far even to people who do not know the mathematical language? To overcome this problem Alfio Quarteroni wrote the very interesting Algorithms for a New World.

Algorithms for a New World: who is Alfio Quarteroni

The text in question was written by a author whose name is well known in his field of study. Alfio Quarteroni is a Lombard mathematician, university professor and academic. Currently, he teaches at the Polytechnic of Milan and at the EPFL (École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, the Federal Polytechnic of Lausanne). In addition, he is also a member of the European Academy of Science and the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei, one of the oldest scientific institutions in Europe.

His studies find application in the most disparate fields: study of the propagation of seismic, electromagnetic and acoustic waves, naval and aerospace engineering, biomechanics, geophysics and medicine. His vast and indisputable knowledge of the subjects dealt with makes his texts precious tools for the rational and scientific understanding of natural phenomena.

A further merit of Alfio Quarteroni therefore consists precisely in his desire to make it accessible to all complex concepts related to mathematics and science. Thanks to his Algorithms for a New World it is possible to peek into the vast and complex world of algorithms even for those who do not have a thorough basic knowledge of the subject, thanks to a fluent and clearly explanatory language that is completely or almost devoid of mathematical formulas. br>

Algorithms for a New World: the importance of mathematical models in the study of the COVID-19 pandemic

Mathematical models are used in different fields, but in the case examined in Algorithms for a New World Alfio Quarteroni explains how they can be used to explain the current trend of the pandemic and make predictions about the future, thanks to the use of supercomputers and artificial neural networks that simulate the functioning of human ones.

Mathematics is the universal language of nature, and understanding it is fundamental to fully understand how the principle of cause-and-f effect.

The third law of dynamics, also known as the principle of action and reaction, establishes that

"To every action there is an equal and opposite reaction".

Well , mathematical models are created to predict what possible effects can be generated by a given starting situation. Although it may seem like child's play, it is not at all!

In order to create a good mathematical model of the pandemic, an impressive amount of data is needed, but, alone, these are not enough: they go in fact correctly contextualized and interpreted. By studying, based on the number of inhabitants of a country or a specific area, the relationship between the number of people susceptible to infection, of the infected and of those infected who then recover, it is possible to create a mathematical model that can explain the progress of the infection, while also allowing us to predict how the situation could evolve in the future.

This predictive feature of mathematical models has led and still leads some people to believe that they are not reliable, that it is not possible to predict something as abstract as the number of future infections from COVID-19. Lack of knowledge of how mathematical models work can therefore lead to deeming them unreliable, because they do something impossible: predict the future. But it is not a question of foresight at all: instead, it is simply a question of logic.

As Alfio Quarteroni himself refers in his Algorithms for a New World,

"An incorrect mathematical understanding of the meaning of the growth of the exponential function has led authorities of various countries to dramatically underestimate the effects of the epidemic in the early stages of the infection ".

In light, therefore, of the dramatic effects caused by the underestimation of certain phenomena and from the missing, fragmentary or imprecise knowledge of mathematical and scientific language, a text such as Algorithms for a New World is essential to shed some light on the application of mathematical models to our everyday life.

The small volume also explains the importance of social distancing to stem the pandemic in the absence of effective vaccines and a homogeneous and complete vaccination coverage, which would allow the so-called "herd immunity".

Algorithms for a New World: structure of the text

Algorithms for a New World is part of the Le Grandi Voci series by Edizioni Dedalo, a publishing house founded in Bari in 1965. The texts included in the series are short and contain in a limited number of pages, in this case 80, everything there is to know on the subject dealt with.

The text starts from a brief analysis of the COVID-19 pandemic to continue telling the story of the first mathematical models and then go into the explanation of terms such as Big Data, machine learning, neuronal networks, artificial intelligence. Alfio Quarteroni then briefly mentions some mathematical concepts and then concludes his discussion with a reflection on the moral and ethical implications of AI.

The volume is practical, compact and light, has a flexible cover and has a binding solid and of good quality. Its reading is smooth and exciting also and above all for those who do not fully know the subject matter, indeed, the volume is suitable for those who want to discover how some mechanisms work even without delving into the meanders of scientific language, which could be difficult. br>
Algorithms and mathematical models are very precious scientific tools, but their importance is unfortunately all too often underestimated by people who do not know their basic mechanisms. Alfio Quarteroni, on the other hand, makes very complex concepts understandable even to non-experts, using an appropriate but not particularly complex language. Algorithms for a New World is a text whose reading is really recommended to anyone who wants to know how much algorithms can help to discover and study the trend of various phenomena, including the COVID-19 pandemic. You can buy it directly here on Amazon.

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