Thursday, October 4, 2007

The mathematics of competition

It was fifty years ago today, October 4, 1957, that the launch of a 183 pound, basketball-sized satellite by the USSR triggered the US to began an ambitious space program culminating with Neil Armstrong’s moon walk in 1969.

Back then US and Soviet scientists were mortal enemies. Today the US and Russia collaborate on the Space Station and many other projects. Yet the popular notion is that human advances in space have slowed considerably.

When just 21, the mathematician John Nash, Jr. wrote a doctoral dissertation on the mathematics of competition. Nash constructed mathematical scenarios in which both sides won, and found stable scenarios where no person continues to profit from competition.

Well, until someone in government figures out how to use Nash’s research, maybe we can count on China to get our competitive juices flowing again.

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