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Medical Researcher Rediscovers Integration

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the it's-all-mathy dept.

Math 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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And (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34457384)

So... what's the story?

Newton? Leibniz? (2)

theY4Kman (1519023) | more than 3 years ago | (#34457400)

No, Tai.

Next Paper .... Simpson's Rule (1, Funny)

TaylorCeres (180839) | more than 3 years ago | (#34457406)

Wait 'til the next paper comes out about Simpson's Rule. That'll really rock the medical community!

Re:Next Paper .... Simpson's Rule (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34457414)

Simpson did it!

Re:Next Paper .... Simpson's Rule (1)

beakerMeep (716990) | more than 3 years ago | (#34457450)

Doh!

Re:Next Paper .... Simpson's Rule (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34457722)

Honest question: Why doesn't the Wikipedia page about Simpson's rule [wikipedia.org] mention RK4 [wikipedia.org] ?

From the link above for RK4:

Also note that if f is independent of y, so that the differential equation is equivalent to a simple integral, then RK4 is Simpson's rule.

Re:Next Paper .... Simpson's Rule (4, Informative)

robosmurf (33876) | more than 3 years ago | (#34457854)

Because you are too lazy to add it?

So how is a 16 year old report news? (2, Interesting)

Fallen Kell (165468) | more than 3 years ago | (#34457408)

This Article 1. doi: 10.2337/diacare.17.2.152 Diabetes Care February 1994 vol. 17 no. 2 152-154

Re:So how is a 16 year old report news? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34457444)

Well, to be fair to the poster, the blog entry regarding the paper is only under 4 years old (March 2007)

Re:So how is a 16 year old report news? (5, Insightful)

pieisgood (841871) | more than 3 years ago | (#34457456)

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.

Re:So how is a 16 year old report news? (3, Interesting)

ShakaUVM (157947) | more than 3 years ago | (#34457582)

>>His hubris must be punished by way of an Internet meme.

Tai me up?

Tai your shoelaces?

Could probably do something with Tai meaning "Red Snapper" in Japanese, or "Wife" in Chinese, but that might be a bit too highbrow for an internet meme.

In any event, it's not hubris to get excited about something you invented that you didn't know existed before. It's ignorance. I once explained to a CS professor this method I'd found for finding the greatest common divisor of two integers, and he cut me off by saying that Euclid had figured it out 2300 years ago. :p

Re:So how is a 16 year old report news? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#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.

Re:So how is a 16 year old report news? (2)

stazeii (1148459) | more than 3 years ago | (#34457794)

How about "Tai One, Calculus Zero". Get it? Tai-one? *sigh*

Re:So how is a 16 year old report news? (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#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...

Hentai. (1)

bronney (638318) | more than 3 years ago | (#34457858)

anyone?!

Re:So how is a 16 year old report news? (1)

Torodung (31985) | more than 3 years ago | (#34457716)

I have to go take the wheels off my car so I can put on these newly invented "Tai-ers."

Re:So how is a 16 year old report news? (3, Informative)

Dave114 (168228) | more than 3 years ago | (#34457744)

The really scary bit is the 137 citations that Google Scholar reports for this paper. (Link to the Canadianized version of Google Scholar [google.ca] )

Number of citations... (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34457476)

The first link is even more amusing than the paper itself. Look at the number of citations the paper received!!! I mean, WTF???

Re:Number of citations... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34457586)

Anyone who has ever taught premedical students knows that this is absolutely unsurprising.

Re:So how is a 16 year old report news? (1)

guyminuslife (1349809) | more than 3 years ago | (#34457530)

Not only that, but the mathematical technique he describes is centuries old!

Re:So how is a 16 year old report news? (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34457868)

Diabetes Care February 1994 vol. 17 no. 2 152-154

That this study was stating the obvious was also noted 16 years ago. Unfortunately, often these follow up comments are very hard to find. Seeing all these comments, the article perhaps should have been pulled.

Diabetes Care. 1994 Oct;17(10):1223-4; author reply 1225-6. Comments on Tai's mathematic model. Wolever TM. Comment on: * Diabetes Care. 1994 Feb;17(2):152-4. PMID: 7821151

Diabetes Care. 1994 Oct;17(10):1224-5; author reply 1225-7. Tai's formula is the trapezoidal rule. Monaco JH, Anderson RL. Comment on: * Diabetes Care. 1994 Feb;17(2):152-4. PMID: 7677819

Diabetes Care. 1994 Oct;17(10):1225. Modeling metabolic curves. Shannon AG, Owens DR. Comment on: * Diabetes Care. 1994 Feb;17(2):152-4. PMID: 7821152

Diabetes Care. 1994 Oct;17(10):1223; author reply 1225-6. Determination of the area under a curve. Bender R. Comment on: * Diabetes Care. 1994 Feb;17(2):152-4. PMID: 7821150

And he needs a computer to do it for curves (3, Interesting)

wagadog (545179) | more than 3 years ago | (#34457418)

While boat-builders use Simpson's rule on hull surfaces to estimate the displacement...with a slide rule and a sharp pencil.

Oh, but they're trained in Union apprenticeship programs and so could not *possibly* be as bright or talented or well-trained as a Doctor who went to University. And see? This Doctor has a publication! He must deserve 10X the salary of a boat builder.

Re:And he needs a computer to do it for curves (1)

magnusrex1280 (1075361) | more than 3 years ago | (#34457438)

That depends; does the boat builder use bananas in the construction?

Re:And he needs a computer to do it for curves (3, Insightful)

Hikaru79 (832891) | more than 3 years ago | (#34457448)

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.

Re:And he needs a computer to do it for curves (5, Insightful)

eggnoglatte (1047660) | more than 3 years ago | (#34457496)

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

Re:And he needs a computer to do it for curves (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34457506)

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

Re:And he needs a computer to do it for curves (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34457560)

he just forgot how. forgetting is easy, discovering something that you're supposed to know is a lot harder.

Re:And he needs a computer to do it for curves (1)

The_mad_linguist (1019680) | more than 3 years ago | (#34457672)

discovering something that you're supposed to know is a lot harder.

http://lmgtfy.com/?q=%22area+under+a+curve%22 [lmgtfy.com]

Re:And he needs a computer to do it for curves (2)

aiht (1017790) | more than 3 years ago | (#34457846)

This was apparently published in 1994.
I don't think they had lmgtfy back then.

Re:And he needs a computer to do it for curves (1)

The_mad_linguist (1019680) | more than 3 years ago | (#34457892)

Yes, but "let me infoseek that for you" or "let me reference desk librarian that for you" don't have quite the same ring.

Re:And he needs a computer to do it for curves (4, Insightful)

FrootLoops (1817694) | more than 3 years ago | (#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.

Re:And he needs a computer to do it for curves (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34457566)

only a Trained Union Apprentice could possibly think that spending all day summing quadratics with a slide rule when two lines of python would do the same thing is the mark of brightness.

Re:And he needs a computer to do it for curves (2)

Mister Pedant (1722084) | more than 3 years ago | (#34457720)

Here's my two line of python:
I didn't expect the Spanish Inquistition.
Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition.

Unique (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34457420)

OK, can we now agree that no thought is unique and that no idea is so big that no-one will think it again? (If this could be agreed upon we could solve a lot of problems with patents and copyright.)

Physicists rediscover medicine: (5, Funny)

haystor (102186) | more than 3 years ago | (#34457432)

ABSTRACT:

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

Re:Physicists rediscover medicine: (1)

Internalist (928097) | more than 3 years ago | (#34457674)

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

Best. Starve-a-fever-feed-a-cold. Evar.

I'm totally stealing this...

Re:Physicists rediscover medicine: (3, Insightful)

julesh (229690) | more than 3 years ago | (#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.

Inconceivable! (0)

Oxford_Comma_Lover (1679530) | more than 3 years ago | (#34457888)

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

You keep using that abstract. I do not think it means what you think it means.

Not so simple... (5, Insightful)

rbayer (1911926) | more than 3 years ago | (#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.

Re:Not so simple... (2, Insightful)

makubesu (1910402) | more than 3 years ago | (#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.

Re:Not so simple... (1)

syousef (465911) | more than 3 years ago | (#34457548)

While the submitter here claims that this article is simply rediscovering the trapezoid rule, there's actually no such evidence given in the Abstract

You're right. he didn't make it all the way to trapezoids. He's combining triangles and retangles instead:

"total area under a curve is computed by dividing the area under the curve between two designated values on the X-axis (abscissas) into small segments (rectangles and triangles) whose areas can be accurately calculated from their respective geometrical formulas.:"

Any way you cut it, this is pretty poor for a supposedly learned doctor.

Re:Not so simple... (1)

Garridan (597129) | more than 3 years ago | (#34457550)

Nope. While I didn't find the PDF for this article, I read a few of the articles which cite "Tai's Model". One of them in particular, http://www.ajcn.org/content/89/4/1043.full.pdf [ajcn.org] , explicitly writes "Tai's Model" out,

1/2 x 30 x (y0min +2y30min + 2y60min + 2y90min + y120min)

This makes me think that Tai didn't "rediscover" anything, but brazenly plagiarized from a calculus textbook.

Plagiarism not needed (1)

FrootLoops (1817694) | more than 3 years ago | (#34457798)

The derivation of the trapezoidal rule is like 3 lines of algebra.

Re:Not so simple... (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | more than 3 years ago | (#34457828)

Actually, in medicine the value of something like this is that you can say "measured as X using Tai's Model" and people will know what you mean, and can compare it to norms or other patients. If you decide you want to split into smaller triangles then it becomes a different model that doesn't compare so easily. All part of the goofy world of medical calcs, which are often performed and used by technicians.

Damning Followup (5, Informative)

FrootLoops (1817694) | more than 3 years ago | (#34457874)

Tai's article was printed in February of 1994. An author comment printed in the October 1994 issue is titled "Tai's formula is the trapezoidal rule." [nih.gov] I don't have full text access to either, but the title of the followup is not encouraging.

Re:Not so simple... (1, Informative)

welcher (850511) | more than 3 years ago | (#34457940)

You are far too generous -- there was a comment on this paper in the next issue of the journal entitled Tai's formula is the trapezoidal rule [nih.gov] . There is nothing complicated or clever about it.

Look at Economics first (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#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.

Oh gods.... (-1, Troll)

jamax (228376) | more than 3 years ago | (#34457470)

Oh gods.... I'm not overly sentimental (I think), but I've almost cried over humanities' fate after reading the abstract..

This.. clown (it's the nicest epithet I can think of, since it imples at worst an improper attempt at joke) is called a researcher.. He or she comes daily to his/her work (I assume) to this Roosevelt Hospital Center, NY and probably even wears some sort of white labcoat (when not busy with composing doctorate about exciting new uses for those holes and buttons which exist on the front of his/her coat.. ("You just wait till I tell you what happens if you combine the two! You'll never guess! I'll call the process "Tais' button-hole pairing bond" and win a Nobel!")

Honestly, I can't understand how THIS could happen anywhere.. I'm just sad now...

This is actually more impressive than it sounds (1)

LostMyBeaver (1226054) | more than 3 years ago | (#34457474)

Sure, it's math that has been known by math and physics types for centuries, but what is truly impressive is that a medical researcher, in other words someone who, if they still remember any math is chemical math or statistical math oriented actually managed to handle a topic such as this.

What I think is most odd about this is that no-one in his peer review group noticed that this is actually relatively trivial calculus. My nephew has recently applied to study medicine in the university and I was more than a little surprised that he wasn't required during his undergraduate studies to obtain a classical scientific education. In fact, the only non-chemistry oriented science he was required to take was "Physics 1" and he wasn't required to take calculus at all. I'm not even sure how you can teach a physics course without calculus, but they appeared to be happy with nothing more than "pre-calc" style topics covering basic derivatives.

I believe what makes this impressive even though he could have Googled the topic quite easily is that it shows a small shift towards educating medical researchers in sciences which demand precision. It wasn't until quite recently (during the span of my life at least) that engineers who can in fact apply science started working closely with theoretical scientists (such as medical researchers) to devise actual solutions to problems.

If the gap is closed further then eventually, a new breed of medical research may come about who is educated in both medicine AND math and technology. Then we may start solving problems much more rapidly. I'm sure there is such a thing somewhere, but those guys, instead of publishing and bragging are probably doing silly little things like actually solving problems and don't have time for that.

Re:Google the topic? (1)

MartijnL (785261) | more than 3 years ago | (#34457516)

Not if he had 1.21 Gigawatts first.

Re:This is actually more impressive than it sounds (3, Interesting)

Splab (574204) | more than 3 years ago | (#34457546)

Apparently most slashdotters do math on a daily basis. I can't recall the last time I needed to do integrals - in fact, if you had asked me 5 minutes ago how to calculate the area under a curve, I would have needed a trip to google/wolfram to look it up.

Can't really fault someone who isn't doing it on a daily basis for not knowing the "obvious" answer.

Re:This is actually more impressive than it sounds (1)

LostMyBeaver (1226054) | more than 3 years ago | (#34457618)

Let me apologize for that... yes there are some of us who do math on a daily basis. I have a long history (nearly 18 years professionally) of using complex math regularly and forgetting it the moment I'm done implementing the algorithm until such time as I google it.

But whether the chosen algorithm is obvious or not is less important than the fact that it is clearly obvious that there must be a proven method of calculating it. Googling "calculating the area under a curve" works pretty well.

Of course, in 1994 (I think that's when the paper was written), Google wasn't an option, but a phone call to the math department of the local university would have been effective.

So, to be more precise, it is obvious that there must be an existing mathematical method of solving the problem. Whether the method is obvious or not, well that's more dependent on the person evaluating the solution.

Re:This is actually more impressive than it sounds (2)

azalin (67640) | more than 3 years ago | (#34457710)

This isn't about not knowing the answer, this is about not knowing an answer might exist.
I would never blame anybody not to know details about stuff not within his field.
The catch phrase being "details". You should however be smart enough, to accept that you don't know everything and that it is no shame to ask a professional.
It's not like medical researchers do the statistical analysis of their data themselves on a regular basis.
All I ask for is the ability to identify what kind of problem it is you have and then start asking or reading.

It is even more sad, this went through review and got published.

While I'm already ranting, try asking a doctor what he thinks of amateurs (read: not a doctor) meddling in their field.

Re:This is actually more impressive than it sounds (2)

iamhassi (659463) | more than 3 years ago | (#34457776)

"Apparently most slashdotters do math on a daily basis. I can't recall the last time I needed to do integrals - in fact, if you had asked me 5 minutes ago how to calculate the area under a curve, I would have needed a trip to google/wolfram to look it up."

I haven't done any calculus in XY years but I guarantee you if someone asked "how do I figure out the area under a curve" I'd eventually answer "Calculus", at least before I wrote a medical journal about it and submit it for peer review. I mean he quotes the first chapter of my old calculus book almost exactly: "In Tai's Model, the total area under a curve is computed by dividing the area under the curve between two designated values on the X-axis (abscissas) into small segments (rectangles and triangles) whose areas can be accurately calculated from their respective geometrical formulas. The total sum of these individual areas thus represents the total area under the curve."

Sorry but this dr deserves to be shot, next thing he'll be figuring out how to measure the sides of a triangle given then lengths of the other two sides.

Re:This is actually more impressive than it sounds (4, Interesting)

guyminuslife (1349809) | more than 3 years ago | (#34457584)

There is a great short story by Jorge Luis Borges, called "Pierre Menard, Author of Don Quixote," wherein the titular character sets out of to write Don Quixote. The fact that Don Quixote was written by Miguel de Cervantes centuries ago is irrelevant. Pierre Menard does not try to copy Cervantes' work, and in fact he avoids reading it to make sure that it does not affect his own authorship. Instead, Menard goes out and makes it so that his combined life experiences inspire him to write a creative work, pulled out of his own imagination, that just so happens to conform, word-for-word, to the original text of Don Quixote. He is not the first to write it, but neither is he plagiarizing. He completes his masterpiece shortly before his death, and it goes largely unnoticed....

The story goes into a critical review of the piece and claims that due to the author's particular circumstances, it is artistically superior to the original Don Quixote.

This reminds me of that.

Re:This is actually more impressive than it sounds (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34457756)

IIRC, Ménard *does* read the original book (he has to, otherwise his book wouldn't be a perfect copy), only he must be able to explain every word with something better than "well I just copied what Cervants wrote". It's a great read though, Borges' Fictions should be on everyone's reading list, and length isn't even an excuse, his stories are short and awesome.

Re:This is actually more impressive than it sounds (1)

FrootLoops (1817694) | more than 3 years ago | (#34457774)

As for a calclusless physics course, I took one in high school. It was the most advanced in the school, sadly, and didn't include calculus--even though half the class was in AP Calc or had already taken it. Anyway, I digress. Mostly it focused on free body diagrams and solving simple kinetics problems. I remember the equations of kinematics were used a lot. They relate velocity, position, and time under constant acceleration and are all trivially derived with calculus, though for the purposes of that class they fell out of the sky. I vaguely recall some electricity and magnetism, though I can't imagine what could have been taught without differential equations.... Oh, I remember--we spent some time on Ohm's Law. And the teacher brought in a 1 Tesla magnet which screwed up the TV (CRT) from a dozen feet. He also shot a potato gun into the air, had us time how long it took to get down, and had us calculate the muzzle velocity assuming the path was purely vertical and the potato was under constant acceleration. That problem is solved with one of the kinematics equations I mentioned.

So, I suppose we basically did a little algebra, memorized some formulas (or derived them ourselves, as the case may have been), and screwed around a lot. I imagine a similar course in a university would be slightly more formal and stuff in more equations pulled from thin air. The students aren't interested in the derivation anyway, I suppose; why bother giving it to them? For that matter, why bother teaching physics to med students?

Re:This is actually more impressive than it sounds (1)

PSandusky (740962) | more than 3 years ago | (#34457878)

The students aren't interested in the derivation anyway, I suppose; why bother giving it to them? For that matter, why bother teaching physics to med students?

I could work up quite a list here, but instead I'll send you to Steve Vogel. Read Prime Mover: a Natural History of Muscle and Vital Circuits. Vogel wrote the latter to describe circulatory systems largely in terms of physics, and he cites his (then) recent heart surgery as a guiding animus.

The truth is, physics counts. Yes, there are idiot doctors out there who got by with memorizing all kinds of stuff and who, by extension, can handle the overwhelming majority of "simple" complaints. For my money, I want a doctor who has had some education to let him think beyond Gray's Anatomy and the PDR if and when I present with something outside of that overwhelming majority. If it's a biomechanical problem, that doc had damn well better have had physics.

Re:This is actually more impressive than it sounds (1)

PSandusky (740962) | more than 3 years ago | (#34457850)

What I think is most odd about this is that no-one in his peer review group noticed that this is actually relatively trivial calculus. My nephew has recently applied to study medicine in the university and I was more than a little surprised that he wasn't required during his undergraduate studies to obtain a classical scientific education. In fact, the only non-chemistry oriented science he was required to take was "Physics 1" and he wasn't required to take calculus at all. I'm not even sure how you can teach a physics course without calculus, but they appeared to be happy with nothing more than "pre-calc" style topics covering basic derivatives.

I would indicate to you that your nephew's situation is not typical. Programs tend to vary widely in how they approach requirements and prerequisites. I would question their approach, myself -- especially if your nephew has any interest in moving on to research.

Granted, I don't work in medicine. Still, I work in biology, and I came to this work with both calculus and calculus-based physics. I may not have the same mathematical toolbox someone working in physics has, but my field doesn't let me be ignorant of calculus to be deemed acceptable as a scientist, either.

I hate it when that happens (5, Insightful)

Fractal Dice (696349) | more than 3 years ago | (#34457482)

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

Re:I hate it when that happens (5, Funny)

beakerMeep (716990) | more than 3 years ago | (#34457654)

I was gonna say the same thing until I read your post :(

Already blogged about here (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34457494)

As the OP is probably already aware of, it was recently blogged about by John D. Cook in two entries:

1. 'Three surprises with the trapezoid rule' on Dec 2, 2010:

    http://www.johndcook.com/blog/2010/12/02/three-surprises-with-the-trapezoid-rule/

2. 'You can be a hero with a simple idea' on Dec 3, 2010:

    http://www.johndcook.com/blog/2010/12/03/you-can-be-a-hero-with-a-simple-idea/

Doing well (3, Insightful)

ravenacious (1655221) | more than 3 years ago | (#34457514)

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

Y'all just got Riemann-rolled (2)

wramsdel (463149) | more than 3 years ago | (#34457526)

Did it ever occur to anyone that the author is nothing more than a publication troll, seeing what exactly he can get away with? It's possible that the joke's on the journal, not the author.

Re:Y'all just got Riemann-rolled (4, Insightful)

guyminuslife (1349809) | more than 3 years ago | (#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.

No calculus? (4, Interesting)

wickerprints (1094741) | more than 3 years ago | (#34457528)

I don't know what kind of academic curriculum a student could choose these days that would permit them to pursue a career in medical research without ever having learned basic calculus at SOME point. I mean, when I was in high school, having taken AP Calculus AB was more or less a requirement for applying to almost any reasonably competitive four-year university. How do you enter a pre-med program without even knowing what an integral or derivative is? It seems completely implausible to me, given how competitive these programs have become. Moreover, that this author somehow thought it novel to estimate the area under a curve via trapezoidal approximation is not nearly as bewildering as the fact that they should have had the basic research skills to find that their "discovery" amounted to something that is regularly taught to high school kids. To me, that's the real scandal--that someone who can write a journal article doesn't know or care to look for prior research.

Re:No calculus? (4, Interesting)

Beryllium Sphere(tm) (193358) | more than 3 years ago | (#34457594)

The scary part is this sentence:
"Other formulas widely applied by researchers under- or overestimated total area under a metabolic curve by a great margin".

Re:No calculus? (1)

benjamindees (441808) | more than 3 years ago | (#34457732)

Heh, time for your shot. Let's see, how much morphine do you need, "a squared" plus "b squared" equals, oh, hell, 5 cc!

And 40 papers reference this one. (5, Interesting)

Animats (122034) | more than 3 years ago | (#34457534)

About 40 papers supposedly reference this one.

Of course, I can't read them, because they're behind a paywall. The rights to the paper are owned by the American Diabetes Association, which supports something called the "Washington DC Principles for Free Access to Science" [dcprinciples.org] . This is a lobbying group against free access to scientific publications. They've been fighting open publication since 1994. Here's their latest output, opposition to the Federal Research Public Access Act, which would force all Government-funded research papers onto public servers.

Re:And 40 papers reference this one. (1)

oldhack (1037484) | more than 3 years ago | (#34457578)

There is just too much money (and commercial interest) and not enough science in medical science.

Re:And 40 papers reference this one. (1)

chichilalescu (1647065) | more than 3 years ago | (#34457608)

Seeing it's so popular, I don't understand why the guy didn't patent his idea... to tell you the truth, I do believe you could use it for technology.

Re:And 40 papers reference this one. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34457810)

Exactly my thoughts! I didn't want the ./ crowd going into recursion commenting how I reinvented the same observation, so I scrolled down.

I thought the same but then I realized the reason. Obviously, he isn't bright enough to figure out that his invention is couple of hundred years old, so he also "didn't realize" he could patent. Given how USPTO works, I wouldn't have been surprised if he had actually been granted one.

Re:And 40 papers reference this one. (1)

fartingfool (1208968) | more than 3 years ago | (#34457652)

I could just be acting ignorant here, but how in the hell do these people get funded to reinvent the wheel. Not only that, aren't these papers peer reviewed? The few papers that I've seen go through the process (I didn't necessarily contribute) were scrutinized a ridiculous amount. Ahh the agony of seeing a proven system fail by user error.

Re:And 40 papers reference this one. (1)

eyenot (102141) | more than 3 years ago | (#34457926)

Seriously of them? This group has a name that sounds like they support free access to research papers; yet, counterintuitively, they are opposed to research being freely available? And yet, ironically, their latest work sounds like it would force a great deal of scientific research into the public eye? ... ... ... And this guy who can get recognition for something that's, I dunno, as old as pythagoras or some shit? (Not a mathematician). ... ... ... Is it just me or can you get a lot out of the world just by doing the old "hey went THIS way! No he went THAT way no he went THISwayhewentTHATwayhewentTHISwashewentTHATwayhewent whoops, where'd your wallet go? I just saw the nabber! He went THIS way! No he went THAT way! No he went THIS way he went THAT way he went THISwayhewentTHATwayhewentTHIS..." BUT ON A PROFESSIONAL BASIS?!?!

No surprise (3, Insightful)

hax4bux (209237) | more than 3 years ago | (#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.

Re:No surprise (1)

fartingfool (1208968) | more than 3 years ago | (#34457616)

If you get take calculus, you would have covered this. The problem is nobody remembers it because it was a blip in class and every problem in the future that would use it was simply deemed "too difficult to worry about". Always gotta use those shortcuts and if you have to do it longhand, well..screw it, next problem.

Re:No surprise (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34457634)

It's like that joke: what is 2+2?

Engineering student: (punching into a calculator) 4.000000000001

Math student: (after five months) I don't know, but I can prove it converges.

Premed: (immediately, from memory) The Gettysburg Address!

Re:No surprise (1)

dbIII (701233) | more than 3 years ago | (#34457734)

Unless your education system is completely fucked up then students should be learning this in their second last year of high school if they have any ambition to do a difficult course such as medicine.

Re:No surprise (2)

julesh (229690) | more than 3 years ago | (#34457848)

To be fair, I don't think high school courses usually cover numerical approximations to integration. At least here in the UK, our equivalent courses cover analytical integration of continuous functions in one variable, with just a brief covering of the principles behind integration (using the rectangular approximation, IIRC, along with the notion that as the width of the rectangles approach zero the error introduced disappears). But only the analytical approach is actually tested, so I wouldn't be surprised to find some schools skip teaching the basic principles these days. Numerical methods aren't covered at all until you get to university level, at which point they're an optional course in most (all?) subjects.

Re:No surprise (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 3 years ago | (#34457962)

This is often the problem with the way maths and science are taught, they give you a grab bag of factiods and procedures but ommit the basic concepts. The result is that many people remeber bits and pieces but cannot start to put the jigsaw together.

As Sagan put it..."Science is more than a body of knowledge; it is a way of thinking. I have a foreboding of an America in my children's or grand children's time ... when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority; when clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what's true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstitions and darkness."

Oh I see how it works... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34457562)

1. Slashdot employs Timothy, a useless asperger's nerd.
2. Asperger's nerd stumbles on to 16 year old paper.
3. Nerd misinterprets meaning of paper because he just read the abstract.
4. Nerd arrogantly assumes he has more knowledge about calculus than someone writing a paper about calculus.
5. People stop using Adblock.
6. ????
7. Profit.

Ugh (3, Insightful)

anza (900224) | more than 3 years ago | (#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.

Re:Ugh (4, Interesting)

robosmurf (33876) | more than 3 years ago | (#34457950)

Actually, from the abstract this looks like a moderately interesting paper. Also note that the slashdot summary is (as often the case) wrong. You can't solve the problem the paper is referring to with integral calculus.

The curve that the paper is talking about is an experimental result, not a formula. All you have are the experimental samples from the curve. Without a formula, you CAN'T do integration, and must rely on a numerical technique. What he's 'invented' here is the trapezoidal rule. He'd do even better with something like Simpson's rule, but that might be impossible to apply if the sample points are not evenly spaced. Similar problems occur for the various Runge-Kutta methods.

Although the numerical technique that claims to be invented here is indeed a basic numerical technique, the paper is interesting for pointing out that the even cruder numerical techniques that have been used before are overestimating the curve area, and that is an interesting result.

Ancient Crap is Not News (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34457596)

...19Mar07...

First timothy can't even distinguish between Wikipedia and WikiLeaks [slashdot.org] now he's posting crap thats years old?

He helped a lot of people. (2)

Trivial Solutions (1724416) | more than 3 years ago | (#34457624)

What about the fact that the story actually helped a lot of people! It was not worthless, at least.

it's everywhere (5, Insightful)

t2t10 (1909766) | more than 3 years ago | (#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.

Re:it's everywhere (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34457666)

Exactly. Once my novel is published, Punnett squares will be called Smith squares.

That's not the first time (1)

VincenzoRomano (881055) | more than 3 years ago | (#34457664)

Maths was ahead of other sciences, in the sense that the maths for a certain breakthrough was already there, but simply ignored.
The one needed by Einstein was already there since decades, but no physicist was aware of it!
Anyway, the bottom line of the story is that every BS/MS should include a calculus course.

Re:That's not the first time (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34457816)

What did Einstein need?

Re:That's not the first time (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34457970)

Tensors, among other.

Some of them get it... (2)

edibledeity (1153057) | more than 3 years ago | (#34457678)

One of the papers that cites Tai's: http://www.lexjansen.com/wuss/2004/posters/c_post_the_sas_calculations_.pdf [lexjansen.com] It includes a formula Tai 'invented' (quotes in the paper) and acknowledges that it is the trapezoid rule. I can't find Tai's full paper of course, but this article shows that Tai frighteningly might have been serious about his discovery, but also that at least some MDs took calculus.

I am not surprise... (2)

mathfeel (937008) | more than 3 years ago | (#34457700)

As a physics grad student, I TA a LOT of life-science, pre-med students for introductory physics. In these courses, calculus is not necessary. Considering how horrific an average student performs when confronted a problem requiring more than 3 lines of algebra manipulations, I would not be surprised if there's a statistic somewhere more than half of MDs cannot do first-year college level math. I also tutored people taking the MCAT, again, calculus not necessary.

Re:I am not surprise... (1)

oldhack (1037484) | more than 3 years ago | (#34457738)

The awful thing is, medical research relies so heavily on stats, one of the most subtle and delicate branch of math, compounded with difficulty due to limited sample sizes, handled all by these life science guys and gals.

Re:I am not surprise... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34457820)

And handled well. In fact, even this guy is handling the problem - even if he is rediscovering warm water.

Also, what's with the "oh my god, no calculus? are they all insane?" bullshit? Accept it's not needed. I know it's difficult, you've been ass-raped into accepting the One True Science, but TRY, dammit.

Re:I am not surprise... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34457750)

I remember a premed who answered a really simple coaxial cable problem immaculately, with diagrams and clear steps etc... (plus it was legible thank god) but the signs were all reversed, so I made a note. He came up to me later and asked me about it. When I explained, his face went all WTFOMG and he says:

"But... but we didn't cover NEGATIVE charges running through the wire!"

*facepalm*

Said Researcher (2)

nedlohs (1335013) | more than 3 years ago | (#34457742)

got a published article with a lot of citations in a high impact factor journal.

I'm sure he gives a shit what you think about it.

Flip tomato, a f*cked-up "student" (0)

G3ckoG33k (647276) | more than 3 years ago | (#34457840)

This happens all the time. And, it is a good thing. It shows that one method of one field can be applied in another. Nothing new there.

To be honest, I don't think parallel_prankster or many others realize that how many scientific ideas come about. The 'pure mathematics' in many instances had very 'unclean' background, firmly rooted in applied enigmas.

This Tai guy had no reason to look into the trapezoidal first, and see if that could have been applied, his discovery was to see that there was a pattern in the first place.

Then, and this IS good, someone else saw that these two phenomena are the same. Excellent.

Then, that low life flip tomato at http://fliptomato.wordpress.com/ [wordpress.com] "postgraduate, expatriate physics student" who has "the utmost respect for the people, places, and groups that I write about, otherwise I wouldn’t write about them." makes fun Tai... What a f*cked-up "student"...

fliptomato died in 2008 (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34457872)

you insensitive clod!

I found something too! (1)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 3 years ago | (#34457914)

I figured that by using only one and zero, we should be able to build what I like to call a "central processing unit" and "random access memory".

Unfortunately, at best, I don't see more than a dozen of machines built on this design to be used worldwide.

Also in chemistry.... (4, Funny)

Catmeat (20653) | more than 3 years ago | (#34457966)

Q. How does a chemist integrate a curve?

A. They cut out the plot and weigh the piece of paper. Then compare this with the weight of a piece of paper of known area.

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