a lengthy computer-generated sequence, from a major film release, that simulates the destruction of Los Angeles by a tsunami. Mathematical modeling was behind realistic images of wave motion and of building collapses, down to details such as the way windows would shatter and dust would rise and swirl. A great deal of effort is expended in creating tools for animation and computer-generated effects, both generic capabilities and particular instantiations.
Mr. Bin Zafar reported that of the several hundred people working in R&D at DreamWorks, about 13 percent have Ph.D.s and 34 percent have master’s degrees. Just over half of the R&D staff have backgrounds in computer science, 19 percent in engineering, and 6 percent in a mathematical science. He mentioned that he does not receive many applications from mathematical scientists, and he speculated that perhaps they are not aware of the mathematical nature of work in the entertainment sector. He observed that creating robust and maintainable software is essential in his business—most software must be reliable enough to last perhaps 5 years— and that very few of their applicants develop that skill through education. Their schooling seems to assume that actual code creation is just an “implementation detail,” but Mr. Bin Zafar observed that the implementation step often exposes very deep details that, if caught earlier, would have led the developer to take a different course.
Dr. Shum spoke first of his experience in helping Microsoft Research to establish a research laboratory in Beijing, beginning in 1999. He reported that there is plenty of raw talent in China, “every bit as good as MIT,” so in setting up the research center in Beijing, a conscious effort was made to include some training opportunities that would enable the laboratory to develop that raw talent. By the time Dr. Shum left Beijing in 2006, Microsoft Research–Asia employed about 200 researchers, a few dozen postdoctoral researchers, and 250 junior workers.
Speaking more generally about Microsoft Research’s needs, Shum mentioned three mathematical science areas that are of current importance to his search technology division of over 1,000 people:
• Auction theory, including mechanism design. The problem of mechanism design (see Chapter 2) is critical, and people with backgrounds in the mathematical theory are necessary. He has a few dozen people working on this topic.
• Graphs, including research that helps us manage enormous graphs such as Internet traffic patterns and research to understand social graphs, entity graphs, and click graphs (which show where users clicked on a hyperlink). His team at Microsoft Research includes many people with theoretical and mathematical backgrounds.