Billiards and Chaos!

This week Luke Mohr will give a talk “Dynamical Billiards and Chaos” OR “Will the Bouncing DVD Logo Ever Hit the Corner?” Come join us Wednesday for a fun talk and pizza from 6-7 in LGRT 1634!

Most of us have seen it. Many DVD players’ screen savers feature a logo bouncing endlessly back and forth about the four sides of your television. The question that has kept me awake on countless nights is: will that logo ever bounce exactly into a corner? I will begin my talk by trying to answer this question, and use this topic as a starting point to introduce the concept of dynamical billiards. Mathematically, a billiard is a system in which a particle bounces within some boundary (or “table”) such that its angle of incidence is equal to its angle of reflection (again, think of this bouncing dvd logo or a cue ball bouncing endlessly within a pool table). I will discuss the different shapes of tables which have been studied and what it means for a table to be chaotic.

Games Night!

Hi all,

This weeks meeting will be a games night! We have Set and Go, but if you have any good games to play, please bring them along. We will be meeting at our usual time and place (LGRT 1634 6-7 PM) Come by for pizza and games!

Movie Night Tonight (2/16)!

Tonight at 6PM in LGRT 1634 we will feature the Horizon documentary “Fermat’s Last Theorem”. The movie tells the exciting story of Andrew Wiles’ proof of one of the most famous mathematical problems in history. This movie is a must see for anyone interested in math! As usual we will have pizza and soda. Come hang out with your fellow math enthusiasts!

Simon Singh and John Lynch’s film tells the enthralling and emotional story of Andrew Wiles. A quiet English mathematician, he was drawn into maths by Fermat’s puzzle, but at Cambridge in the ’70s, FLT was considered a joke, so he set it aside. Then, in 1986, an extraordinary idea linked this irritating problem with one of the most profound ideas of modern mathematics: the Taniyama-Shimura Conjecture, named after a young Japanese mathematician who tragically committed suicide.

The link meant that if Taniyama was true then so must be FLT. When he heard, Wiles went after his childhood dream again. “I knew that the course of my life was changing.” For seven years, he worked in his attic study at Princeton, telling no one but his family. “My wife has only known me while I was working on Fermat”, says Andrew.

In June 1993 he reached his goal. At a three-day lecture at Cambridge, he outlined a proof of Taniyama — and with it Fermat’s Last Theorem. Wiles’ retiring life-style was shattered. Mathematics hit the front pages of the world’s press. Then disaster struck. His colleague, Dr Nick Katz, made a tiny request for clarification. It turned into a gaping hole in the proof. As Andrew struggled to repair the damage, pressure mounted for him to release the manuscript — to give up his dream. So Andrew Wiles retired back to his attic. He shut out everything, but Fermat.

A year later, at the point of defeat, he had a revelation. “It was the most important moment in my working life. Nothing I ever do again will be the same.” The very flaw was the key to a strategy he had abandoned years before. In an instant Fermat was proved; a life’s ambition achieved; the greatest puzzle of maths was no more.

Colloquium 2/15 at 4PM

There is a math undergraduate colloquium Tuesday 2/15 at 4PM in LGRT 219. Jim Callahan from Smith College with give a talk “Tides: Why Two, Why the Moon?” Refreshments will be served in LGRT 1634 at 3:45 PM. Check it out!

Jupiter Follow-up

Thanks again to Professor Turkington for an excellent discussion about modeling Jupiter’s atmosphere. I hope that many of you took away some insight into what is involved in solving a problem of this magnitude! He wanted to make his slides available to all of you in case you were interested. I’ve attached the file below. Also check out this cool video of the great red spot in motion; you can see many of the features that Prof. Turkington spoke about.

Jupiter Slides