Applied mathematicians in the service of pressing global issues

Nowadays there is a diffuse border between pure and applied mathematics. The pure mathematician – an atypical scientist inclined toward the abstract – – is capable of switching at any time to the role of applied mathematician in order to address and solve the pressing global issues that threaten humanity. From assisting manned space missions to modelling the processes of ice melting or the spread of an epidemic, the applied mathematician’s contributions are crucial for humankind. The confidence we have in the truths of applied mathematics, which – within the philosophy of science – is part of the so-called Wigner’s puzzle, is a kind of evolutionary feature of the discipline.

Climate change: It’s a business matter too

In 1973, a group of scientists published a report linking rising CO2 with global warming and some of the resulting meteorological patterns. It was one of the first publications on what would later be called ‘climate change’. Surprisingly, the report’s authors worked at Munich Re, one of the big players in the global insurance business. “Our industry […] started monitoring this issue long before the public even noted that there was a problem,” says Peter Höppe, head of the company’s Geo Risks Research division based in Germany. Höppe will join the roundtable “Climate: facts, figures and future” at the 4th European Conference of Science Journalism.


The properties of asbestos in terms of resistance and insulating against all type of agents and its relatively low cost of exploitation, explain the extensive industrial applications reinforcing all sort of materials. With mechanical strength, asbestos fibers decompose at high temperatures, do not dissolve in water or evaporate into the air in which It can remain transported over long distances. It cannot be degraded to other composites, and remain virtually unchanged forever, according to its etymological Greek-rooted name.

Paper biosensors: towards eco-friendly diagnosis

Many of our daily products are made from pollutant materials, which have proven to be extremely difficult to recycle. Recently, there have been a number of high profile campaigns to raise awareness about the global plastic waste crisis. Specifically to raise awareness of single-use plastics (microbeads, packaging, bags, disposable products etc.), which make up approximately 40% of the now more than 448 million tons of plastic produced every year. In an effort to do their bit to help, some biotechnological companies within the healthcare sector have focused their efforts on the search for alternative materials to fabricate diagnostics products. Paper has emerged as a possibility, but is it actually a real option for the market?