University of Rochester

Math Awareness Week 1998 Aims to Heighten Math's Image

April 28, 1998

In keeping with the theme of Math Awareness Week 1998 -- "Mathematics and Imaging" -- two University of Rochester experts will detail math's role in medical and computer imaging this Thursday afternoon, April 30. Both talks will take place in Room 209 of the Computer Science Building on the University's River Campus. The illustrated lectures are free and open to the public, and refreshments will be served.

Adrian Nachman will speak on "Seeing With Your Ears and the Mathematics of Medical Imaging" at 2:30 p.m. Thursday. Nachman, a professor of mathematics, is working with engineers to develop a way to use ultrasound in mammography. Following Nachman's talk will be a 4 p.m. lecture by Kyros Kutulakos, assistant professor of computer science and dermatology, on "Building Virtual 3-D Copies of Real Objects, People, and Environments from Photographs."

Math Awareness Week, which runs this year from April 26 to May 2, was established in 1986 by former President Ronald Reagan to remind Americans of the importance of this basic branch of science in our daily lives. Also intended to convey the power of mathematics to a larger audience, Math Awareness Week is marked each year with events at scores of high schools, colleges, and universities nationwide.

This year's theme, "Mathematics and Imaging," highlights math's role as an essential element of imaging in fields as diverse as medicine, computer science, space exploration, and data storage. For instance, math makes possible electrical impedance tomography, which may greatly improve detection of tumors. Mathematicians' work with fractal image compression permits entire encyclopedias to fit on a single CD-ROM, while wavelet image compression allows electronic storage of the millions of fingerprints kept on file by the FBI. Image compression also speeds the transmission of images from spacecraft, which would otherwise filter back to Earth at just one seven-hundredth the speed of a typical modem.

More information on Math Awareness Week -- including an essay on mathematics and imaging with links to related sites and news of Math Awareness Week celebrations taking place around the country -- can be found online at