Before it got canceled in 2010, Numb3rs was a favorite TV show among math geeks everywhere. After all, the show featured a geeky mathematician who used math to solve crimes in LA. Purists could of course object that the show took more than a few liberties with the math it portrayed but, hey, beggars can't be choosers.
Now it seems life might be imitating art. A group of mathematicians at UCLA is working with the LAPD on models that can solve violent crimes. They have created an algorithm to identify which street gangs might have committed unsolved crimes. In a city where one small area is home to some 30 rival gangs, that's no small feat.
According to a UCLA press release, their algorithm is showing promise. In tests, they have "placed the correct gang rivalry within the top three most likely rivalries 80 percent of the time." They have managed to choose the top gang rivalry 50 percent of the time, which is far better than chance.
The algorithm isn't perfect yet, but its creators say they are working to refine it. As it is, it can help police narrow the field as they search for culprits.
The study's lead author, a doctoral student named Alexey Stomakhin, says he has "the best job in the world--working with great young mathematicians and having an impact on society." Just more proof--in case you needed it--that math is cool.