Categorie: Wiskunde

Neural networks

Neural networks, the machine learning of the future

The human brain solves millions of problems daily. To do this, the brain first acquires the necessary information needed to solve any given problem. Then it uses and modifies this information to get a clear assessment of what the problem exactly entails. Once it knows all of this it is (in most cases) able to solve the problem at large. It is able to do so, because of the knowledge about similar problems it has already obtained. Neural networks, named after the neurons in the human brain, work in a very similar way. They consist […]

24 maart • Door David Anthonio Tijd om te lezen Estimated reading time: 5 minuten

Should we be scared of algorithms?

The word ‘algorithm’ can be quite a scary word if one does not know what it actually means. But should we be scared of it? Nowadays, the word is much more frequently used than it was in the past. This is because artificial intelligence (AI) has had a huge rise in the last decade. Algorithms are the building blocks of everything you’re using to read this article. 

One definition of an algorithm is a set of steps to accomplish a task. Hence, you might have an algorithm for getting from home to school, for baking a cake or finding the perfect dress for your evening in the store. In computer science, an algorithm is a set of instructions that take an input, A, and provide an output, B, that changes the data involved in some way. So, all that algorithms are, is a set of basic mathematical instructions.

These algorithms are becoming an indispensable part of our lives. However, some view this as dangerous. For example, Elon Musk (@elonmusk) wrote on 12 Augustus 2017,

“If you’re not concerned about AI safety, you should be. Vastly more risk than North Korea.”

Besides this, there are many stories about AI having negative consequences:  police profiling that reinforces racial stereotypes 21st-century discrimination , acceptance algorithms that deny access despite rightful requesters, unfair rating system algorithms optimized for commercial gain and many other systems that reinforce inequality.

However, to declare that algorithms rule the world is a bit hyperbolic, even though the algorithms are being used more and more every day. This is due to the fact we use computers, laptops and our smartphones so much that they are playing an increasingly more important role in many aspects of our lives. To make all of these devices do anything, you have to write a computer program in which you tell the computer, step by step, exactly what you want it to do. When you are commanding the computer what to do, you also get to choose how it is going to execute it. This is where the algorithms come in. The algorithm is the basic tool used to get the job done. Nevertheless, this is not how all computer algorithms are designed. In this instance, we have the version described above, with unsupervised learning. This involves data representing situations without independent variables. Because of this, there is no need to know the results of each scenario to use for training, and patterns are simply discerned from the data, where all the data is used for training. Besides that, some algorithms allow computers to learn on their own. This is called supervised learning, which involves having data, based on scenarios or historical events, with both dependent and independent variables. The model is trained using this data with both features (dependent variables) and expected results (independent variables). It is then trained by showing the model the scenario and its corresponding result.

Thus meaning, there are uses for machine learning, including data mining and pattern recognition. For example, these mathematical creations determine what you see in your Instagram feed, what movies Netflix recommends you and what ads you see in your Gmail.

But are these algorithms is some way good or evil? As mathematical equations, they are not. However, both people with good and bad intentions can use and have used algorithms. For this, AI models are trained using datasets. The person training the algorithms can select the events that are used to train the models, which is called Feature Engineering. This ‘Feature Engineering’ can be done for many reasons. For example, it can allow algorithms to be used with limited or incomplete data. Besides that, it can improve training by using less or only relevant data. This can improve the accuracy of a model or simplify the maintenance of the model. On the other side, Feature Engineering cannot only bring us good things. It can introduce a bias to the data, which will most likely happen unintentionally. This bias is introduced by the people who select the data, but the technology itself does not have any bias. 


To summarize this, one can say that algorithms and AI do not have either morals or ethics, which makes it neither good nor evil. However, since the algorithms are a tool used by people, it can be misused by people. To stop the misuse of AI technology, spreading awareness of how to use it ethically is needed. The reason for this is because it is the people who have biases, morals and ethics. So, should we be scared of AI? No, we should not, but we should be aware that there are people who can and most likely will misuse it.

This article is written by Deirdre Westenbrink

17 maart • Door Deirdre Westenbrink Tijd om te lezen Estimated reading time: 4 minuten
the optimal pace problem

The Optimal Pace

For professional athletes, the goal of running a marathon is to complete it as fast as possible. However, this does not mean that the athletes are running as hard as they can all the time, as one cannot maintain this pace the entire marathon. Hence they need to find a maintainable pace at which they finish the marathon as fast as possible: the optimal pace problem. It turns out that this very general problem is occurring far more often in normal day life and in business than most of us realise. Furthermore, it turns out […]

12 maart • Door Casper de Vries Tijd om te lezen Estimated reading time: 4 minuten

Analytical Darts

“Why is playing darts even called a sport? I could do this with my eyes closed!”: just one of the many prejudices a lot of people have when speaking about the oh-so controversial ‘sport’ darts. The fact that most of us only play darts when we are drunk and that most of the professional darts players you see on television are not in great shape does not really help getting these stereotypes out of the world. But trust me on this one: for mathematicians and statisticians, analysing the game of darts is a real sport! […]

25 februari • Door Lars Beute Tijd om te lezen Estimated reading time: 6 minuten
the six handshakes rule

The Six Handshakes Rule

In 1994, four Albright college students created a game called “The six degrees of Kevin Bacon”.  This game’s aim is to connect any actor in the Hollywood scene with the actor Kevin Bacon, using at most 5 actors with who they have worked (in)directly. The students came up with the idea after Kevin Bacon stated in an interview with Premiere magazine that “he had worked with everybody in Hollywood or someone who’s worked with them.”  After the young students and Bacon were invited to a TV-show to explain their game, its popularity increased substantially. Even […]

04 februari • Door Casper de Vries Tijd om te lezen Estimated reading time: 5 minuten

Academetrics: the math behind predicting Oscar winners

The biggest night of Hollywood is almost upon us! On the night of February 9th, the annual Academy Awards will be awarded. The biggest names of Hollywood will gather in the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles to celebrate yet another year of cinematic achievements. During the ceremony, 24 golden statuettes, known as an “Academy Award of Merit” or “Oscar”, will be awarded. Every year there is an incredible fuzz when the nominees are announced and the excitement lasts until the actual award ceremony. This makes you wonder whether or not this excitement is justified. The […]

21 januari • Door Jochem Hak Tijd om te lezen Estimated reading time: 6 minuten
Quantum computers

The danger of quantum computers

The idea of a quantum computer first arose in the late century. Richard Feynman was the first person to think of using the special quantum properties to solve difficult mathematical problems. A lot of progress has already been achieved. “Let’s see what the future of quantum computers has to offer.”   A basic understanding of quantum computers All computers work in basically the same way. They receive an input of data, manipulate the data in some way and finally give an output. Quantum computers are no different. But what makes them so special? Quantum computers […]

16 januari • Door David Anthonio Tijd om te lezen Estimated reading time: 5 minuten
artificial intelligence

21st-century discrimination

The past decade has been the decade of artificial intelligence. With the abundance of data that is generated every day, more and more decisions are made using data analytics and algorithms. The rise of AI in the 21st century has been swift and it has made an impact on almost every field. However, just as many good things, artificial intelligence also has a downside which came to light when in the 1980s some staff members of St. George’s Hospital Medical School noticed a lack of diversity among their students. They started an inquiry to investigate […]

14 januari • Door Fenna Beentjes Tijd om te lezen Estimated reading time: 8 minuten

The truel

Imagine it is 1872, you are sitting in a saloon with Smith and Brown, two of your old friends. However, the three of you do not seem to get along as you did before. As time passes, tall tales turn into boisterous arguments. At some point Smith has had enough and challenges both of you for a truel, a triangular pistol duel. You hesitate, knowing that you are the worst shot out of the three and look at Brown. You both know that Smith has the best aim and Brown comes second. In fact, from the […]

19 december • Door Pieter Dilg Tijd om te lezen Estimated reading time: 3 minuten
The beauty behind differential equations

The beauty behind differential equations

It is one of the most difficult courses of the year: Difference and differential equations. Where most us do not really understand what we are actually learning and doing. In this article I will try to explain that differential equations are actually one of the most beautiful concepts in mathematics. What is a differential equation? A differential equation is an equation that relates some function with its derivatives. In applications; differential equations give us an understanding how physical phenomena relate to their rates of change. The laws of physics are usually always describable through differential […]

17 december • Door Sam Ansari Tijd om te lezen Estimated reading time: 5 minuten

Guaranteed profit gambling

With over 1.6 billion people gambling at some point during a given year and over 4.2 billion people having gambled at some point in their lives, it is safe to say that gambling is booming. The risk versus reward element gives players a small rush of excitement and this is also the reason why gambling is so addictive for a lot of people. Lots of social events also include gambling, for example a poker evening. Long story short: there is a big chance that you will be gambling at some point in your life. But […]

12 december • Door Lars Beute Tijd om te lezen Estimated reading time: 6 minuten

Are you smart enough to work at Google?

Google is known as the king of riddle recruitment and its insanely difficult puzzles often go viral online. Large companies use these recruitment puzzles to narrow down a huge graduate applicant pool to a select few. A coder googled the words “python lambda function list comprehension” and got “You’re speaking our language. Up for a challenge?” as an answer from the search engine. After the coder solved the “100 hats riddle”, he was offered a job at the tech powerhouse.  The “100 hats riddle” There are 100 prisoners lined up by an executioner and they […]

05 december • Door Renske Zijm Tijd om te lezen Estimated reading time: 2 minuten

By Daniele Zedda • 18 February


By Daniele Zedda • 18 February

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