Well, it has to be good for something…
People sometimes aren’t aware just how much computers influence their lives. They’ve used the internet and mobile phones, seen computer-generated imagery in cinemas, and perhaps realised how much date is being sensed around them. But there are enormous applications for computers in science, arts, and medicine.
Earlier today I did an introductory lecture on using computers to study disease epidemics:
Computational epidemiology is the use of mathematical and computational techniques to model how diseases spread. This is important for answering a number of questions. How infectious are different diseases? Why are different populations affected differently? How do different treatment regimes work? Is quarantine effective? We can address these sorts of questions using a range of different techniques, ranging from differential equations (calculus) for simple cases through to complex networks and high-performance simulation for complex case — and possibly even modelling real diseases in real-world geographies in real time.
This lecture is an interactive introduction to these ideas. We’ll explore how diseases spread; conduct an experiment where we infect each other (kind of); and then see how different aspects of computer science help us to explore diseases and their treatment.
The slides and other material are available here. I’ve included the slides, and an animation of a simulated epidemic running through a population of people. I’ve also included an IPython notebook describing some of the mathematics needed and containing all the code I used to generate the graphs and animation from the talk, which might be handy for anyone wanting to explore this area more thoroughly.