Browse Issues:
Synthetic  Biology, Real  Mathematics

By Dana Mackenzie
Imagine cellular factories churning out biofuels. Nanomachines hunting out cancer cells. Machines growing from living tissues. These were some of the visions proposed at the start of the new millennium by the founders of a subject they called synthetic biology. It was like genetic engineering but more ambitious: Instead of merely splicing a single gene from one organism into another, synthetic biologists would design entire new biological circuits from scratch. 
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Modelling Plant Cell and Tissue Growth

By Oliver E. Jensen
Until a few years ago I knew very little about plants, despite the fact that––as harvesters of solar energy, atmospheric regulators, and a primary food source––they underpin our existence on this planet.  My turning point came in 2007, when I had the good fortune to join a systems biology project at the University of Nottingham, UK (, created to develop a “virtual root.” This opened my eyes to the remarkable ways in which even the most humdrum weed is able to exploit and adapt to its environment. The project also turned out to be an excellent testbed for the development of multiscale mathematical models connecting mechanics to biology. 

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Mathematics of Electricity Markets Under Uncertainty

By Andy Philpott
The last twenty years have witnessed a transformation in the development of market mechanisms for supplying electric power. Applied mathematics continues to make major contributions in both understanding and implementing these market mechanisms. This article presents a personal perspective on the role of applied mathematics in this area, as well as a selected set of contributions and promising directions.

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The Complexity of Entanglements

By Jean-Luc Thiffeault
Complex entanglements occur everywhere in nature: in human hair, in the threads forming hagfish slime, in carbon nanotubes, in DNA, and in countless other settings. These entanglements involve physical strands, fibers, or polymers. The character of the entanglements is important, as it often affects the macroscopic integrity of the materials.
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A Role for Modeling, Simulation, and Optimization in an Agricultural Water Crisis

By Eleanor Jenkins, Kathleen Fowler
The authors have been working together since 2011 on a problem to do with agricultural sustainability. What brought them together was a workshop at the American Institute of Mathematics (AIM). For last summer’s SIAM Annual Meeting, they organized a minisymposium, The Mathematics of Sustainability, in which they and others discussed particular aspects of the problem. Here, on the invitation of SIAM News, they tell the story of their ongoing collaboration. 

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Volcanic Activity as Trigger of Climate Change

By James Case

BOOK REVIEW: Waking the Giant: How a Changing Climate Triggers Earthquakes, Tsunamis, and Volcanos. By Bill McGuire, New York, Oxford University Press, 2012, xiv+303 pages.

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SIAM’s CSC Workshop Series Marks 10th Year

By Bora Uçar, Albert-Jan N. Yzelman
The 2014 SIAM Workshop on Combinatorial Scientific Computing, held at the École Normale Supérieure in Lyon, France, July 21–23, was the sixth in a series that began ten years ago in San Francisco. True to CSC tradition, the 2014 workshop program comprised a wide range of combinatorial topics arising from many corners of scientific computing. Presenting recent results were a diverse set of speakers––PhD students, postdocs, early-career researchers, and well-established researchers, from academia, national laboratories, and industry; speakers from industry accounted for more than 10% of the talks.

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As this issue of SIAM News goes to press, members’ votes in the 2014 election have been tallied.

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To the Editor:
Eric Shea-Brown’s exciting article “Exploring Connectivity in the Brain’s Network of Neurons” (SIAM News, October 2014) makes me wonder if a slightly different target should be pursued. He asks, “Just what is the right way to describe . . . neural activity?” I propose one right way. 

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