Math in the News: 8/29/11
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Math in the News: 8/29/11

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In this issue of Math in the News we look at how to develop computer models for tracking the path of a hurricane.

In this issue of Math in the News we look at how to develop computer models for tracking the path of a hurricane.

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Math in the News: 8/29/11 Math in the News: 8/29/11 Presentation Transcript

  • 8/29/11
  • Hurricanes
    • The specific path that a hurricane takes can’t be accurately predicted because of the many variables involved.
    • But the general path that a hurricane takes is in a northwestern direction.
  • Hurricanes
    • One way to model the behavior of a hurricane is to use a “random walk” simulation.
    • Imagine an ant on a coordinate grid and the random walk it would take across it.
  • Hurricanes
    • You can create a random walk using an Excel spreadsheet.
    • The data in the table, represented in the graph, was generated using a random number formula.
  • Hurricanes
    • Add two column headings, x and y, to A1 and B1.
    • Start at the origin. Enter 0 in A2 and B2.
    • Enter this formula (shown for A3) in subsequent rows:
    • =A2+RANDBETWEEN(-2,2)
    • Do the same for Column B.
    • Graph the data.
  • Hurricanes
    • But this random walk needs to be a bit less random if we want the path to generally go along a northwest path.
  • Hurricanes
    • If we place an x-y coordinate grid as shown on a map, then the random path should start in quadrant 4 and move along a negatively sloped path.
  • Hurricanes
    • In other words, the randomization should favor a step to left than one to the right, and a step upward than one downward.
    • How can we influence the randomization this way?
  • Hurricanes
    • Add two column headings, x and y, to A1 and B1.
    • Input the coordinates (10, -10) in A2 and B2.
  • Hurricanes
    • Add this formula to cell A3.
    • Then input this formula into cell B3
  • Hurricanes
    • Copy and paste the formulas in cells A3 and B3 to enough cells to create 20 ordered pairs.
  • Hurricanes
    • Graph the data.
  • Hurricanes
    • Overlay a map of the region to see the simulated path of the hurricane.
  • Hurricanes
    • Run different simulations to model different paths.
  • Hurricanes
    • Tweak the randomization formulas to affect the amount of northern and western tracking.
  • Hurricanes
    • Scientists use sophisticated computer models to predict the path of a hurricane.
    • But because of the many variables involved, predicting a hurricane’s path with a high degree of accuracy is difficult.