Below are the first 10 and last 10 pages of uncorrected machine-read text (when available) of this chapter, followed by the top 30 algorithmically extracted key phrases from the chapter as a whole.

Intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text on the opening pages of each chapter.
Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.

Do not use for reproduction, copying, pasting, or reading; exclusively for search engines.

OCR for page 567

567
This article can be viewed online at
http://www.businessweek.com/techno~ogy/content/apr2002/tc20020430_3678. htm
APRIL SO, 2002
By Stephen H. Wilctstrom
Enlisting Math to Defend the Homeland
America's number whizzes say their science has a key role to play -- and they just met
in D.C. to show their stuff
At first glance, the notion of a conference on "The Mathematical Sciences' Role in
Homeland Security" looks like a shameless attempt to channel some of the mighty stream
of security funding that has been rolling out of Washington since September. ~ i . "When
got the e-mai! invitation," says Howard Schmidt, vice-chair of the Presiclent's Critical
Infrastructure Protection Board, "l thought at first it was a joke."
No joke. In fact, the Apr. 26-27 workshop sponsored by the National Research Council's
Board on Mathematical Sciences & Their Applications was stealthy serious. It turns out
that many of the diffuse and complex problems of homeland security are deeply
mathematical in nature, and even some of the science's most abstruse branches, such as
topology and high-climension geometry, can be brought to bear on security problems.
The most obvious application is the encryption techniques used to protect data from
prying eyes. But encryption issues are so well known that they went largely unmentioned.
Even crypto specialist David Wagner of the University of California at Berkeley clevotect
much of his presentation to other topics, from the mathematics of power-grict reliability to
the design of "inherently self-stable systems."
DATA EXTREMES. Not surprisingly, much of the discussion focused on the use of
acivancect statistical techniques to cleat with two almost opposite problems. First, the
growing use of cameras and other surveillance techniques is overwhelming analysts with
more data than they can hope to make use of. Mathematicians can help by developing
ciata-mining techniques that help spot patterns in an ocean of seemingly ranclom
. ~ .
Information.
At the other extreme, epictemio~ogists chasing, say, an outbreak of anthrax must figure
out whether they're clearing with a terrorist attack or a ranclom, natural event based on
extremely scanty evidence. A situation that presents a large number of variables and a
small number of data points is very poorly hanctlect by traditional statistical analysis.
Michael H. Freedman of Microsoft Research pointed out that techniques clevelopect in the
heel of high-climensiona] geometry are relevant here. Geometers have found ways that a
space with a large number of dimensions can be approximated using a much smaller
ctimensiona] heist of numbers that are far easier to work with. In statistics, this is
567

OCR for page 567

568
generally analogous to reducing the number of variables.
WORKING BACKWARDS. Freedman, a winner of the most prestigious prize in mathematics,
the Fieicts MeciaI, acictect a touch of levity to an otherwise serious session by describing
"the general worIct view of mathematicians." On his way from Seattle to Washington, he
was seiectect for a secondary search at SeaTac airport. He puI1ect out his itinerary and said
he was on his way to a conference on mathematics and national security. "The guard was
very skeptical," Freedman saint. "She asked, 'Are you a mathematician?' ~ said 'yes." She
replied, 'Then Goct help us."'
Alexancler H. Levis, chief scientist for the Air Force, suggested that mathematicians
might finct ways to apply to domestic security the statistical techniques that the military
has clevelopect for analyzing threats. One, using an approach called a Bayesian inference
network, works backwards from a set of possible events to assign probabilities to the
potential actions that opponents might take.
In the end, mathematicians clon't suffer illusions that math alone is going to make the
nation significantly more secure. Workshop organizer Jennifer Chayes, director of
Microsoft Research's Theory Group, says she chose the topic for the annual workshop
simply because it seemed natural and relevant. For example, Freeciman's research
specialty, the mathematics of quantum computing, could one clay enable the solution of
problems that today remain dauntingly complex.
Practical applications remain, at best, years away. "I don't think," Freedman says, "that
we can stop terrorism in time by building quantum computers." All in all, however, the
conference put the relationship between math and national security front and center.
568