Calculating optimum strategies
Whether it’s a game of Texas Hold ’Em or analysis of potential carbon markets, mathematics factors into the solution. “We’re toolmakers,” says math professor Steven Bleiler. Working with engineers, scientists, economists and others, Bleiler develops computational models to illuminate optimum strategies to resolving complex problems.
In May 2009, the venerable New Scientist magazine profiled Bleiler in an article titled “Quantum Poker: Are the Chips Down or Not?” [hyperlink http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20227081.300-quantum-poker-are-the...
The journalist had a pretty solid understanding of quantum logic “though his poker needed a boost” jokes Bleiler, whose game certainly doesn’t—he has competed in the Championship Event of the World Series of Poker twice, and is now at work on a book about poker strategies.
Most compelling is the “quantum” component of poker. When it finally arrives, online poker (and betting strategy) won’t be the only thing that changes.
Quantum mechanics allows physically separate particles to be “entangled” with one another, so that what happens to one can impact what happens to the other.
Consider flipping two coins. Each will land on heads half the time and tails the rest of the time—regardless of what the other coin does. But if these coins were entangled, the first coin coming up heads would impact the other coin. What’s more, the coins could exist as both heads and tails in the same moment.
Current computers store data in a series of 0s and 1s. The power of future quantum computers would be an exponential leap in speed. By simultaneously processing multiple numbers at once, these machines could solve problems in seconds that now take years. Immediate applications could include cryptography and security systems, as well as an ability to model much more complicated systems.
“One of the great things about math is that it happens everywhere,” says Bleiler. Thus it follows that grad students trained in math will end up working with practitioners across disciplines. That’s an approach favored by Bleiler and supported by Portland State’s commitment to community engagement.
Lately, Bleiler has been intrigued by the concept of “carbon markets”—a strategy that puts a price on carbon emissions and creates a trading exchange. Working with colleagues in math and economics, he has developed a working computer model for companies and government agencies to manage carbon emission strategies—something several states and Canadian provinces, the U.S. federal government, and European Union are already interested in.
Not to say that Bleiler hasn’t enjoyed working more traditional veins of mathematics—he earned distinction earlier in his career as a knot theorist. In fact, one knot now bears his name: the Bleiler-Nakanishi knot that upon being made cleverly more complicated, it becomes easier to untie.
OPB Article on Bleiler’s “Carbon Quants”
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