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Math Medicine Science

Medical Researcher Rediscovers Integration 473

parallel_prankster writes "I find this paper very amusing. From the abstract: 'To develop a mathematical model for the determination of total areas under curves from various metabolic studies.' Hint! If you replace phrases like 'curves from metabolic studies' with just 'curves,' then you'll note that Dr. Tai rediscovered the rectangle method of approximating an integral. (Actually, Dr. Tai rediscovered the trapezoidal rule.). Apparently this is called 'Tai's Model.'"
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Medical Researcher Rediscovers Integration

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  • Not so simple... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rbayer ( 1911926 ) on Monday December 06, 2010 @02:15AM (#34457436)
    First, does anyone have a link to the actual article? TFS only seems to include an abstract. Second, this was published in 1994. Third, while it may simply seem that the author is rediscovering integration, the field of numerical integration is actually a rather rich one. It's all well and good to say "take an antiderivate and evaluate at the endpoints", but for a function that is found experimentally this is essentially nonsense. While the submitter here claims that this article is simply rediscovering the trapezoid rule, there's actually no such evidence given in the Abstract--algorithms for determining how big of rectangles/trapezoids/etc to use in your calculations is actually an active area of research (albeit usually for the multidimensional case) and it is possible that this researcher did actually discover a better algorithm for deciding how to do the numerical approximations.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 06, 2010 @02:17AM (#34457440)

    before you blame medical science.

    Economists constantly rediscover mathematics and tag their name in front of long-known mathematical things. And then, they collect a Nobel Prize for it.

    And then, they use it for investing your retirement savings, in .com stock or CDOs. At the same time, they pay themselves at lot of gratification and bonus. And then, you are very surprised that your money is gone.

  • by Hikaru79 ( 832891 ) on Monday December 06, 2010 @02:17AM (#34457448) Homepage
    Okay, I realize you're probably just trolling here, but you do realize that he reinvented integration, not just learned how to solve a couple of integrals, right?

    It says something sad about the state of interdisciplinary communication that this was considered worthy of publication, but if you think it reflects poorly on his intelligence, you're missing the point.
  • by pieisgood ( 841871 ) on Monday December 06, 2010 @02:18AM (#34457456) Journal

    Really it should be under idle, it's just the fact that the dude forgot all about calculus and went back and remade the approximate method of integration. His hubris must be punished by way of an Internet meme.

  • by Fractal Dice ( 696349 ) on Monday December 06, 2010 @02:22AM (#34457482) Journal
    Nothing spoils the joy of having an original idea more than discovering it's actually a basic concept of another discipline.
  • by eggnoglatte ( 1047660 ) on Monday December 06, 2010 @02:24AM (#34457496)

    Given that this is highschool - level math, I'd say "reinventing" it primarily shows a shocking lack of education (for a doctor).

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 06, 2010 @02:29AM (#34457506)

    Or evidence of having cheated his way through school like well over half of premeds [citation needed].

  • Doing well (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ravenacious ( 1655221 ) on Monday December 06, 2010 @02:34AM (#34457514)

    Tai's model is obviously doing well its field, it has 38 citations with the last being in 2010.

  • No surprise (Score:4, Insightful)

    by hax4bux ( 209237 ) on Monday December 06, 2010 @02:41AM (#34457542)

    Life scientists don't get the same calculus we get as engineers.

    This summer I helped a MD discover that factorials yield largish integers. At first I thought he was mocking me but it turned out that he really was serious.

    Turns out that MD's are ordinary mortals after all.

  • by makubesu ( 1910402 ) on Monday December 06, 2010 @02:41AM (#34457544)
    First, given that the error formula for the trapezoidal rule is well known, that the error terms can be successively eliminated by romberg integration, and that numerical integration is a stable numerical method, I'm skeptical about that determining the number of trapezoids is an "active area of research". Second, given that for the overwhelming majority of articles, the abstract is the only thing that is read, I'm skeptical that such gems lie buried within the full text. Unfortunately, PubMed doesn't keep full text up for this journal beyond a few years ago, so it will take some effort to get the full text, even for those of us with access to PubMed.
  • Ugh (Score:3, Insightful)

    by anza ( 900224 ) on Monday December 06, 2010 @02:50AM (#34457590)
    Things that are ridiculous about this paper:

    1) The man names the method after himself. I can see the smug look on his face when he figured out how to integrate, and decided to name his newfound discovery after himself. That's a big no no in science.
    2) It's been cited 137 times since it was published. Most recently in June. That means that there has been ~137 people that cited it without seeing that it's just an integral.
    3) It completely reaffirms the whole stereotype of the premedical student memorizing everything they need to get into medicine but understanding nothing.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 06, 2010 @02:55AM (#34457610)

    No better way to learn than to discover it yourself. You'll never forget Euclid's algorithm, but I have to look it up every time.

  • it's everywhere (Score:5, Insightful)

    by t2t10 ( 1909766 ) on Monday December 06, 2010 @03:01AM (#34457644)

    You may laught at this, but you find the same thing in all fields. Programming language designers are writing papers on decades old language features, user interface researchers are getting lots of citations for decades old ideas or gimmicks from scifi movies, and theoretical computer science authors are woefully ignorant of statistics and machine learning. Mathematicians and physicists aren't immune either.

  • by guyminuslife ( 1349809 ) on Monday December 06, 2010 @03:03AM (#34457650)

    Even if he isn't, the failure is on the journal for not properly reviewing the paper. If it's purportedly a mathematical paper (as in, the title starts with, "A Mathematical Model for....") then perhaps a mathematician should look at it.

  • by FrootLoops ( 1817694 ) on Monday December 06, 2010 @03:12AM (#34457690)

    ...he reinvented integration...

    "Reinvented" is putting it a bit strongly, at least from the abstract of the paper (I, shockingly, don't have access to the Diabetes Care journal to see the full extent of the "discovery"). As well as I can gather, he noticed the area of a curve can be approximated by making a bunch of rectangles underneath it, and that you can be "clever" and add a triangle above the rectangles to get an even better answer. That's not even close to reinventing integration. To be honest, it's not even integration in a formal sense; no idea of limits seems to be used, for instance, or boundedness, infinite sums, or infimums/supremums.

    Did he, say, find the fundamental theorem of calculus and derivatives, along with a few formulae like the binomial theorem which gives the usual power rule? Is he able to compute some integrals symbolically? If so, I'd be impressed. But, and without being able to read the article itself, he seems like a guy who got tired of counting cells on graph paper and noticed he could do a little better by drawing trapezoids.

  • by julesh ( 229690 ) on Monday December 06, 2010 @03:37AM (#34457808)

    Method for dissipation of influenza symptoms through prolong dietary restriction versus current methods of hypercaloric intake treatment of cold virus carriers.

    If you can find a way of making that Method and apparatus..., you could probably get a patent.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 06, 2010 @03:40AM (#34457822)

    In any event, it's not hubris to get excited about something you invented that you didn't know existed before. It's ignorance.

    The two are not mutually exclusive. Going so far as to publish a paper describing something he is expected to have learned in high school or at least in college is over the top.
    Its pretty bad that the peer review didn't catch it either...

  • by aXis100 ( 690904 ) on Monday December 06, 2010 @06:39AM (#34458428)

    That's the difference between software "engineering" and any other form of engineering. Maybe in another 200 years programmers will be there, civil and electrical disciplines have had a fair head start.

  • by rve ( 4436 ) on Monday December 06, 2010 @06:54AM (#34458476)

    An integral requires that you know a formula that describes the curve. I think (can only see the abstract) this paper deals with measurement curves from lab tests. Other techniques apply there. I don't know if dr. Tai's technique was an important new development, but I do know that this slashdot item is bogus.

  • by pedantic bore ( 740196 ) on Monday December 06, 2010 @07:25AM (#34458588)

    Nothing spoils the joy of having an original idea more than discovering it's actually a basic concept of another discipline.

    I used to feel that way, but now I don't. I've learned to take some comfort from the fact that if it's already a time-tested and useful idea, I can feel confident that I got it right.

    In my own field, there's often as much as a ten year lag before some young upstart grad student comes along and proves that my ideas are bogus, and I hate the suspense.

  • by Rakshasa Taisab ( 244699 ) on Monday December 06, 2010 @07:47AM (#34458686) Homepage

    Wait, what?... When did integration require you to have a 'formula' for the function?...

    Or rather to put it in another way; a data set as in the measurements from a lab test do translate into a function (for the points where we have data) and if we decide on how to interpolate between values we have a function which is continuous. So yeah, the slashdot item is spot on and you're probably in the same category as dr. Tai.

  • by Dunbal ( 464142 ) * on Monday December 06, 2010 @08:23AM (#34458912)

    You subscribe to the common (and completely erroneous) delusion that doctors make a lot of money. While sure it might sound great to say your income is 400k a year as a specialist, and completely ignore the 10+ years of school it took to get there, the student loans, and since medicine is not really a career you can work your way through, that's 10 years of no income too. THEN give half of it to the government in taxes. THEN give half of THAT to the insurance companies for liability insurance. THEN pay for all your supplies. And then you can afford a modest lifestyle.


    A physician.

  • Doctors tend to complain that they can only afford a "modest lifestyle" but tend not to understand what they have is generally well above "modest."
  • by Asmodae ( 1155077 ) on Monday December 06, 2010 @11:54AM (#34461024)

    And this is how MATH should be taught.

    Maybe some bits can and should be taught that way, but the body of knowledge in mathematics is too large to try and teach any significant portion that way. It's taken humanity many lifetimes to discover what we know, one person doesn't have that long. Rediscovering something can be really cool on a one off basis, but there isn't time to do that for the entire body of knowledge nor should we try. Discovery is about the need to know and understand and the drive to sate that need. It's hard to teach those qualities when someone wants everything laid out for them.

    As for the quadratic equation, well applications for that are as numerous as applications of algebra. I would give examples but as you've stated your willful ignorance already I suspect that examples wouldn't have helped you in school either. I sense a lot of finger pointing in your tirade. I'm curious why you feel that way when so many others have gone on from the same educational systems (or even foreign ones that are even more hard-line/drill based) to figure things out and make great discoveries.

The next person to mention spaghetti stacks to me is going to have his head knocked off. -- Bill Conrad