MathCon 2023: Revealing the invisible through mathematics
06 Sep 2023 | Amiel Abadilla (1 BS MIS)
Last 22 August 2023, hundreds of first-year college students filled the Leong Hall Auditorium to attend a series of invited talks from young Filipino professionals. The event was called MathCon (short for Math Convention), is an annual event organized by the Ateneo Mathematics Society that aims to promote appreciation of mathematics by highlighting its applications in various fields.
But, as mentioned by Dr Romina Ann Yap, Associate Chair for Undergraduate Programs of the Ateneo Department of Mathematics and MATH 10 co-coordinator, in her opening remarks, this occasion was special for it marks the first time that MathCon was put together purposefully to align with Mathematics in the Modern World (MATH 10), a course taken by all college students in Ateneo.
There were four speakers during this event. Coming from different backgrounds (but all Ateneo alumni), each talk revolved around the theme for this year’s MathCon – “Revelare,” which translates to seeing the invisible or revealing what is concealed. The first speaker was Dr Mark Loyola, Associate Professor of the Ateneo Department of Mathematics, who gave a talk entitled “Efficiency Through Symmetry.” Dr Loyola began by introducing fundamental notions linked to the concept of symmetry such as isometry, the fundamental region, translations, and reflections. Arguably, the highlight of his talk was when he cited evidence of how nature gravitates towards symmetry for its pure efficiency – such as how a new virus is formed from (smaller) identical units simply snapping into each other.
The second speaker was Joshua Uyheng, currently a PhD candidate at the societal computing program of Carnegie Mellon University, who discussed his research regarding data tracking of increased (online) hate speech during the course of the pandemic. Key takeaways from his talk were as follows: Patterns become apparent in social media posts and this allows us to observe “how groups are formed and organized by hate”, and realize that “polarization on social media is a dynamic process that involves both information and emotion.” In this talk, we learned that mathematical tools could also be used to understand the divisions in global conversations; particularly through visual observations provided by patterns.
The third speaker, Mr Lyonel Tanganco, shared about the use of mathematics in disseminating the traffic and transport situation in the Philippines. As Senior Manager of WeSolve Foundation Inc and a contributing member of the Move as One Coalition, Mr Tanganco explained his agency’s process of gathering and using data, delving into percentages and statistics of crucial factors that affect vehicular traffic in the country. What stood out was the irony between transport data and budget allocation. For instance, a minority of Filipinos – only 6% of households – own cars, yet only 40 billion pesos (out of 2.8 trillion pesos) were allocated for public transportation infrastructure. Tanganco concluded his talk by speaking about the way “mathematics can make the future visible” by objectively analyzing mobility trends.
The last talk gave the audience an insight into how mathematics is beneficial to many professions and careers. The speaker was Mr David Cuajunco, a data scientist currently working at Lazada Philippines. Cuajunco’s main thesis statement was that mathematics allows things to be “tangible.” What he meant by this is that mathematics can produce models (e.g equations, charts, etc.) that show hidden relationships between significant factors affecting one’s life.
Overall, the talks allowed many students to see mathematics in a different light. Personally, as a first-year student under the School of Science and Engineering, it is inspiring to view a subject that once harrowed me in my lower levels, in a more enlightened perspective. This new – and brighter – perspective on mathematics certainly eased many of my anxieties towards the subject and even got me more convinced of its necessity. Speaking on behalf of the SOSE students who participated in Revelare, with new hopes kindled for this discipline, I am looking forward to discovering more about mathematics in this and the coming semesters.
Photos courtesy of Mr Kenneth Arnonobal of the Ateneo Mathematics Society
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