The Math of Ebola


In the past week, world leaders have started using a mathematical term when they talk about the Ebola epidemic in West Africa.

“It’s spreading and growing exponentially,” President Obama said Tuesday. “This is a disease outbreak that is advancing in an exponential fashion,” said Dr. David Nabarro, who is heading the U.N.’s effort against Ebola.

Students who have learnt how the exponential graph looks like will know that the exponential function grows extremely quickly. exponential graph

In fact, for large enough x, the exponential function e^x will be larger than any polynomial function, say x^{100}. For example, when x=700, e^{700}=1.01\times 10^{304}, while 700^{100}=3.23 \times 10^{284}.

Fortunately, there is some good news:

Before we all start panicking (which I have been working hard not to do, myself), the world did get some welcome news this week. On Tuesday, President Obama announced plans for the U.S. military to provide 1,700 hospital beds in West Africa. It will also help set up training facilities for health care workers.

Featured book:

An Introduction to Bioinformatics Algorithms (Computational Molecular Biology)

This introductory text offers a clear exposition of the algorithmic principles driving advances in bioinformatics. Accessible to students in both biology and computer science, it strikes a unique balance between rigorous mathematics and practical techniques, emphasizing the ideas underlying algorithms rather than offering a collection of apparently unrelated problems.The book introduces biological and algorithmic ideas together, linking issues in computer science to biology and thus capturing the interest of students in both subjects. It demonstrates that relatively few design techniques can be used to solve a large number of practical problems in biology, and presents this material intuitively.An Introduction to Bioinformatics Algorithms is one of the first books on bioinformatics that can be used by students at an undergraduate level. It includes a dual table of contents, organized by algorithmic idea and biological idea; discussions of biologically relevant problems, including a detailed problem formulation and one or more solutions for each; and brief biographical sketches of leading figures in the field. These interesting vignettes offer students a glimpse of the inspirations and motivations for real work in bioinformatics, making the concepts presented in the text more concrete and the techniques more approachable.PowerPoint presentations, practical bioinformatics problems, sample code, diagrams, demonstrations, and other materials can be found at the Author’s website.

Author: mathtuition88

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