News Briefs Sept. 20, 2017

Students present at math conference

On Saturday, Sept. 16, Smith College held its annual Women In Mathematics in New England conference, a one-day colloquium in mathematics and statistics. The conference features undergraduate, graduate and high-school students, as well as old and new professors and high-school teachers. Although the focus of the conference is on women, all are welcome. (Smith College, “WIMIN17,” 9.10.2017)

The conference featured two speakers: Elizabeth Stuart of Johns Hopkins University, who gave the Dorothy Wrinch Lecture in Biomathematics, and Ina Petkova of Dartmouth College, who gave the Alice Dickinson Lecture in Mathematics. (Smith College, “WIMIN17,” 9.10.2017). Students were invited to give roughly 15-minute-long talks about the results of their summer research projects, including four Vassar students: Lia Bozzone ’20, Serenity Budd ’19, Rachel Matheson ’19 and Yanjie Zheng ’18, a later addition to the schedule.

Budd completed her research in a team at the Iowa Summer Institute in Biostatistics (ISIB) under the advisement of a faculty mentor. ISIB is funded by the National Heart and Blood Institute and hosted at the University of Iowa. She spoke in a session on statistical modeling about the effect of interhealth care facility sharing networks on Clostridium difficile infection rates.

“Presenting my summer research to a group of undergraduates, graduates and professors at WIMIN was an amazing opportunity,” stated Budd. “I loved taking my summer experience and sharing it with other like-minded students and professionals. The most rewarding part was that after my presentation, a professional statistician came up to me and expressed that he was impressed with my work and presentation. We continued to have a conversation about my project and statistics in general. I am so thankful to have had this opportunity to attend and present at WIMIN.”

Bozzone did a pREU (pre-Research Experiences for Undergraduates) program at Clemson University in coding theory, number theory and cryptography. She spoke in a session on computer science. Her speech, titled “Error-correcting Capabilities of Various Algebraic Geometric Codes,” discussed distributive storage (storing information in different places on a computer) and how if too many people try to access the same information at once, it may make it so no one is able to.

“The conference was a really great experience, especially since this was my first time giving a talk,” stated Bozzone. “It was also nice discussing research and interests with students and professors with other universities.”

Matheson spoke in a session on economic modeling. Her speech was titled “Transportation Networks Optimized for Various Income Groups and Their Impact on the Spread of Airborne Disease.”

All four students were supervised by Associate Professor of Mathematics and Statistics Kariane Calta, who coordinated efforts to bring several students to the conference.

—Abby Tarwater, Guest Reporter

North Korea launches another missile

A day after North Korea threatened the United States and its closest Asian ally, Japan, to reduce them to “ashes and darkness,” it launched another ballistic missile on Friday, Sept. 15, flying over Japan. Similar to the latest incident prior to this one, the missile was fired from a close proximity to Pyongyang and flew over the Japanese island Hokkaido. However, this time around, the missile flew higher and further than Hwasong 14, the most recent missile that was fired late last month (Reuters, “North Korea threatens to ‘sink’ Japan, reduce U.S. to ‘ashes and darkness,’” 09.14.2017).

The missile was launched a little before 7:00 a.m., reaching a height of 770 kilometers and traveling a distance of 3700 kilometers before crashing into the sea 2000 kilometers away from Hokkaido. The launch was more powerful than North Korea’s previous missile, fired on Aug. 28, which was able to reach a height of only 550 kilometers and a distance of 2700 kilometers (The Telegraph, “North Korea fires second missile over Japan as US tells China and Russia to take ‘direct action,’” 09.15.2017).

According to its reach, this missile could have hit the American territory Guam (The Telegraph, “North Korea fires second missile over Japan as US tells China and Russia to take ‘direct action,’” 09.15.2017) However, due to the course of its flight, the U.S. military command confirmed that neither the security of the local military base nor that of the mainland U.S. had been compromised. The government in Tokyo also confirmed that there were no dangerous pieces falling off of the missile that could have caused serious harm to airplanes and ships under its trajectory.

The Japanese once again had to hide in shelters after the city of Kamasi’s alarm went off and the authorities urged residents to run to shelters or solidly built buildings. Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga issued a statement saying that the continuous provocation of North Korea is unacceptable. U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis responded as well, saying he was outraged that the missile “drove millions of Japanese into the duck and cover” (Reuters, “North Korea Launch Put Millions in Japan Into ‘Duck and Cover’: Mattis,” 09.14.2017). However, after the missile ended its 19-minute flight in the water, the Japanese island calmly resumed its day, as if nothing had happened.

Even the financial markets of the region have already gotten accustomed to North Korean missiles and nuclear tests. Although Thursday’s indexes in the South Korean, Japanese and American capital markets fell after satellite images revealed an increase in activity on Mount Mantap, on which North Koreans are carrying out nuclear tests, Friday’s impact on shares, bonds and Japanese yen was very slight. While the financial markets do not generally do well during outbursts such as the one of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, they have become common enough that they do not affect the level of investor optimism too much (Financial Times, “Asia markets shrug off latest North Korea missile launch,” 09.14.2017).

While everything is going on as usual on the Korean Peninsula itself, anxiety can be felt at the UN Headquarters in New York, where the Security Council met Friday afternoon. They condemned the “highly provocative” missile launch and demanded that North Korea prove its commitment to the denuclearizing process. The UN has already imposed sanctions on Pyongyang, establishing a ban on North Korea’s textile exports and capping its imports of crude oil (The Washington Post, “The Latest: UN Security council condemns North Korea’s test,” 09.15.2017).

North Korea’s latest missile launch promptly triggered angry responses from Tokyo and Seoul, while U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that new sanctions should be imposed and that previously imposed UN sanctions presented just the foundations for the future actions. He continued, “China supplies North Korea with most of its oil and Russia is the largest employer of North Korean forced labor.” The Secretary of State made it clear that now it is up to the two veto members of the Security Council to decide how they want to influence the regime of North Korea. In his words, both countries must show by direct action that they will not tolerate such provocation (The New York Times, “China, Russia Must Take Direct Action Against North Korea: Tillerson,” 09.14.2017).

According to David Wright of the Union of Concerned Scientists, the new launch raises new concerns, as it proves that North Korea can reach Guam. However, it is unclear whether the rockets were carrying cargo, which significantly affects their reach. Analysts agree that with the new missile tests Pyongyang is testing the trajectories of its missiles, although it is currently not expressly targeting U.S. territory as it initially threatened (Los Angeles Times, “UN condemns North Korea’s ‘highly provocative’ missile test,” (09.17.2017).

—Marusa Rus, Guest Reporter

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