Mathematicians look into gas drilling, professional football players, and tulips
Have the government's measures to drill less for gas in the province of Groningen led to fewer earthquakes? And can we use data to determine the quality of professional football players? A group of about sixty mathematicians will be discussing these, and four other important questions from Dutch companies and organizations, during the 135th Study Group Mathematics with Industry (SWI) at Eindhoven University of Technology. The concrete (partial) solutions that are delivered can be implemented directly in practice.
The annual SWI workshop event, where business and academia meet and strengthen each other, starts on Monday morning with the presentation of the problems. In the following days, divided into smaller groups the mathematicians brainstorm, model, analyze and simulate, and eventually return on Friday to present a first or even final solution.
Participants from industry
The participants from industry vary from Statistics Netherlands (CBS), floriculturist Hobaho (part of Dümmen Orange), which is specialized in flower breeding, and SciSports that maps football players with the help of data science and collaborates with many football clubs around Europe. In addition, the mathematicians will also work on problems of the multinationals SKF and DNV GL, and the consultancy firm for quantitative methods CQM in Eindhoven.
Central to Statistics Netherlands' statistical case is the question whether the gas production changes imposed by the Dutch government have influenced the number of earthquakes. Although it sounds simple, it is difficult to determine in practice because a structural change only has a rather subtle influence compared to larger stochastic variations that take place. The data – at least 1000 samples, representing more than 80 years of data – that is necessary to properly calculate this using existing methods, is not available. That is why Statistics Netherlands asks the mathematicians to come up with a statistical method that is capable of providing reliable answers with realistic amounts of data.
The problem of SciSports is on a different level. They map the qualities of football players by means of manually collected data; think of the number of goals scored, successful passes and successful tackles. However, these data lack important contextual information. That is why SciSports wants to improve the algorithm with which they determine the qualities of players by adding positional data about players. This allows context and value to be given to certain events on the field. The challenge for mathematicians is to find mathematical techniques with which strategic and physical qualities of football players can be determined based on the positional data.
The 135th Study Group Mathematics with Industry (SWI) takes place from January 29 to February 2, 2018 at Eindhoven University of Technology. For all participating companies and their mathematical problems, please take a look on the website of SWI 2018.