Writing about math is often the surest road to irrelevancy, but I can't help my fascination with numbers. As it turns out, the mysterious quants of mathematics are about to fascinate us all.
"...Companies are hitching mathematics to business in ways that would have seemed fanciful even a few years ago. In the past decade, a sizable chunk of humanity has moved its work, play, chat, and shopping online. We feed networks gobs of digital data that once would have languished on scraps of paper -- or vanished as forgotten conversations. These slices of our lives now sit in databases, many of them in the public domain. From a business point of view, they're just begging to be analyzed. But even with the most powerful computers and abundant, cheap storage, companies can't sort out their swelling oceans of data, much less build businesses on them, without enlisting skilled mathematicians and computer scientists."
The quant is simply a term for someone who does quantitative analysis. For our purposes, it's a mathematician who analzyes human behaviors to uncover hidden trends in large groups.
Think of the television show Numb3rs, or if you've been unfortunate enough, the movie pi. Or The big screen soon to be mega hit The DaVinci Code. Numbers are the new magic for many of us - if only because words backed up with numbers just sound so authoritative.
Just don't get too enamored - especially when someone tries to use a Fibonacci sequence to get you to buy their latest software.
"Math's other problem? Sometimes it's just not as smart as advertised. As mathematicians expand their domain into the humanities, they're working with new data, much of it untested. "It's very possible for people to misplace faith in numbers," says Craig Silverstein, director of technology at Google. The antidote at Google and elsewhere is to put mathematicians on teams with specialists from other disciplines, including the social sciences."