How do airlines devise efficient schedules for routing airplanes between hundreds of destinations?
How do computer networks find the optimal path for torrents of data?
How do financial strategists arrange investment portfolios for the best balance between risks and gains?
The problems are diverse, but the solutions are related. They each benefit from a set of mathematical techniques collectively known as optimization. With roots extending back to the work of ancient mathematicians, optimization has grown in the last 50 years into an important field of research with experts in many areas of industry and academics.
Until now, however, there has been no central resource for trading knowledge between the many specialties, which is why Professor of Chemical Engineering Christodoulos Floudas thought it was time to create a comprehensive encyclopedia.
After six years of work, Floudas and co-editor Panos Pardalos of the University of Florida have completed the Encyclopedia of Optimization, which was published recently by Kluwer Academic Publishers. With five volumes plus an index, the encyclopedia includes 500 articles by more than 400 authors in fields from astronomy to computer science to biology.
The encyclopedia contains three kinds of articles: broad explanations of general topics; technical articles on specific techniques and applications; and short biographies of important figures in the history of optimization. A key goal, said Floudas, is to allow researchers encountering the subject for the first time, either as students or as established researchers in other fields, to obtain a quick and useful overview. "We want to provide a smooth transition," he said.
Read the full story in the Weekly Bulletin.