Three USU professors explain mathematic’s role in war

Three Utah State University mathematicians are featured this week in USU’s campus-wide commemoration of the end of World War I a hundred years ago.

Talks by Bryna Kohler, Jim Cangelosi and David Brown will range from biological warfare and cryptography to the global arms race.

Dr. Cangelosi said he will explain the relatively crude codes used in World War I to keep and break secrets.

“Then move into World War II and get into the work, which many people may be familiar with, of the Bletchley Park outfit near London, in which the Allies codebreaker secretively worked then.”

Dr. Cangelosi said that group of mathematicians and wordsmiths, and people with a lot of patience, went to work secretly on breaking the Nazi Enigma Code. He said their work has been dramatized in movies, mainly about the life of Alan Turing.

He said Dr. Kohler will discuss how mathematical modeling is used to track the spread of disease, which is easily transferable into what goes on when  biological warfare is used as it is today in Afghanistan and Syria.

He said Dr. Dave Brown’s talk deals with game theory.

“Game theory is basically the mathematics where we use mathematical modeling to build winning strategies,” Cangelosi explained. “I love the title of his presentation, ‘Game Theory and the Arms Race, Modeling a Game No One Wins.’”

The talks are in Huntsman Hall Thursday (Kohler, 1:30 p.m.) and Friday (Cangelosi 1 p.m. and Brown 4 p.m).

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