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Mathematical medicine?

Can medical research benefit from the insights of applied mathematicians?

The problem with medical research to date is that it isn't a mature science, the way physics is. It can draw connections, such as between obesity and lifespan, but it yields little understanding of why or how things are connected. And it can't predict outcomes.

"What we claim to have known is correlative rather than mechanistic," says Dr. Jim Keener, an expert in mathematical biology at the University of Utah who spoke at the centre's opening. "It's historical rather than predictive. It's qualitative rather than quantitative."

Mathematical medicine, which has been growing steadily in the past 10 years, promises to fill those gaps.

Prognosis has always been the achilles heel of medical science. No doubt the mathematicians will be useful, but we'll never be able to predict every outcome with certainty.

Even the physicists can't do that.


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