‘Math is used for everything’

By Kim Young-won
  • Published : Aug 14, 2014 - 21:20
  • Updated : Aug 14, 2014 - 21:20
Behind every great company and scientific theory, mathematics has always been involved.

James Harris Simons, a mathematician dubbed the “Quant King,” said he could not emphasize enough how important the application of math is for everything, ranging from basic scientific research to starting a business.

Today’s inventions such as Google search and digital communications have been created with the use of mathematics.
James Simons. (International Mathematical Union)

“Math is in just about everything. Google, the search engine, is in general based on math. Telecommunications are based on math. It is all over the place,” Simons said at the 2014 International Congress of Mathematicians in Seoul.

Simons, also an avid supporter of basic science, said math can spur studies of the human genome and diseases such as autism, and help develop medicines.

He currently runs charitable organizations that support basic science research funded partially by his earnings worth about $12.5 billion.

“Basic science, which does not necessarily have applications, at least not right away, amazingly later on turns out to have applications,” he said.

Simons added that he owes a great deal of his career to math, which not only helped him build a hedge fund called Renaissance Technologies and make good investment choices, but also gave him fame and fortune. He was a code breaker for the U.S. National Security Agency and a chairman of Stony Brook University’s Department of Mathematics.

“Math has earned me a great deal of money,” said Simons, who ranks among Forbes’ top billionaires.

“(When it comes to investing) you should study the past, like what has happened before, how prices of stocks and other instruments are affected by the prices of other stocks, or by history of earnings of companies, and look for things that are not random, and then you trade accordingly.”

By Kim Young-won (