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Monday, September 23, 2013

Golden Goose Awards Honor Strange Scientific Discoveries

...To combat wide-eyed allegations about useless government-supported research, a group in Washington, D.C., on Thursday (Sept. 19) gave out the Golden Goose Awards to seven researchers whose federally funded studies, though they may sound obscure, have led to practical breakthroughs.

...Lloyd Shapley, Alvin Roth and David Gale (who is being honored posthumously) were bestowed a Golden Goose Award for their work on theoretical mathematical algorithms — which at first, were aimed at finding a formula for compatible marriages.

The Gale-Shapley algorithm, developed in the 1960s, tackled the so-called stable marriage problem. It showed how to match equal numbers of men and women with a spouse so that no two people of the opposite sex would prefer each other over their partner. But the formula also could be used to ensure stable matches in real markets, which Roth helped to show.

Their collective research, though decades apart, has led to mathematical models used around the country to help place graduating medical students in their hospital residencies, match kidney donors with compatible patients and put students in the right schools in urban districts. Shapley and Roth were awarded Nobel Prizes in Economic Sciences in 2012, but Gale, who died in 2008, was not eligible for the prestigious award. 
A Gila Monster helped with the science
behind one of this year's Golden Goose Awards


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