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Movie Night: The Proof

For over 350 years, some of the greatest minds of science struggled to prove what was known as Fermat's Last Theorem -- the idea that a certain simple equation had no solutions. Now hear from the man who spent seven years of his life cracking the problem, read the intriguing story of an 18th century woman mathematician who hid her identity in order to work on Fermat's Last Theorem, and demonstrate that a related equation, the Pythagorean Theorem, is true.

Andrew Wiles devoted much of his career to proving Fermat's Last Theorem, a challenge that perplexed the best minds in mathematics for 300 years. In 1993, he made front-page headlines when he announced a proof of the problem, but this was not the end of the story; an error in his calculation jeopardized his life's work. In this interview, Wiles recounts how he came to terms with the mistake, and eventually went on to achieve his life's ambition.

The department will show the movie on Thursday, December 1st at 7:30pm in Albright Auditorium. Refreshments will be provided. Bring your friends!

Posted 23 November 2011

If Copernicus and Kepler Had Computers: An Introduction to Model-Building and Computational Science

On Thursday, November 17th at 5:00pm, Dr. Charles Van Loan, a SIAM Visiting Lecturer, will give a talk in Napier 201 that connects mathematics and computer science. If you watch Mars against the backdrop of the fixed stars, then night after night you'll see rather steady progress across the zodiac. But every so often, the planet appears to "back-up" before continuing on its forward trek. This periodic, retrograde motion wreaks havoc with a model of the solar system that places each planet on a steadily rotating circle with Earth at the center. Ptolemy did a pretty good job patching up the model by placing each planet on a small rotating circle whose center is on the rim of a larger rotating circle. The path traced out is called an epicycle and it offers some explanation for Mars' orbital wanderings. The epicycle model lasted for centuries until Copernicus set the record straight by suggesting that the Earth revolved around the sun along with the other planets. But would he have been so bold a scientist if he had access to 2011 computers? Or would he have just mouse-clicked his way into fame, developing a simulation package that supported further tinkering with the Ptolemaic model? (Refreshments will be served.)

Posted 11 November 2011

A Mathematical Model of T Cell Exhaustion Caused by HBV/HDV

On Wednesday, November 9th at 4:30pm, Hobart Mathematics Major Yaoxin Liu '12 will discuss his summer research project in Napier 201. In patients with chronic hepatitis B infection, the immune system becomes exhausted, losing its effectiveness over time. Co-infection with another virus, Hepatitis Delta, reduces the amount of HBV in the blood, and so may relieve the exhaustion. During the Summer Research Program last summer, Yixiao Sha, Yaoxin Liu and Prof. Jonathan Forde developed an ordinary differential equation model of the interactions of these two viruses and the immune system to study the effect of a second infection on immune exhaustion. Sha, Liu and Forde started by studying the four dimensional model with only HBV infection, and then added the second virus, HDV. They also analyzed various steady states and their stability for both systems. All the stability conditions are found for the four dimensional system with only HBV infection. For the five dimensional system with HDV, numerical simulations show the existence of positive steady states representing chronic coinfection. The model suggests that co-infection does not reduce the exhaustion level, but increases damage due to general inflammation. (Refreshments will be served beforehand.)

Posted 4 November 2011

Mathematical Models of Bone Biochemistry with Applications to the Treatment of Osteoporosis

On Wednesday, October 26th at 4:30pm in Napier 201 the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science will host Dr. David Ross of Rochester Institute of Technology. Dr. Ross is a SIAM Visiting Lecturer and will be giving a talk entitled: "Mathematical Models of Bone Biochemistry with Applications to the Treatment of Osteoporosis".

In humans and other mammals the skeleton is continuously remodeled, that is, dissolved and rebuilt; human bone has an annual turnover rate of about 10 percent. Understanding the biochemical processes of bone remodeling is important to the development of treatments for the disease osteoporosis, which is characterized by low bone mass, and which puts those who have it at risk of bone fractures. Osteoporosis results from an imbalance in the biochemical remodeling process, when resorption-the chemical breakdown of old bone-outstrips the formation of new bone. The most common cause of osteoporosis is age-related hormone change, the reduction of estrogen in women after menopause, and the reduction of testosterone in older men. Roughly 20 percent of women over the age of 50 have osteoporosis.

In this talk Professor Ross will discuss dynamical system models of bone remodeling that are used to simulate bone remodeling and to study the effects of various treatments for the condition. He will focus on the ways in which the dynamical systems capture the important biochemical features of the remodeling process, and he will discuss modeling methodology and the ways in which models are used. (Refreshments will be served beforehand.)

Posted 20 October 2011

Two-faced: The Cantor set and notions of size

The department will host the first colloquium of the semester with Dr. Emilie Wiesner of Ithaca College speaking about the Cantor set. The Cantor set is a specially constructed infinite set; it has earned its name from an appearance in an 1883 paper of the mathematician Georg Cantor. The Cantor set has many remarkable properties, and Dr. Wiesner will be talking about a few of them. In particular, she'll discuss how two ways of defining size ("measure" and "cardinality") lead to two very different ideas of how big this set really is! The talk will take place on Thursday, September 29th at 4:45pm in Napier 201. Refreshments will be served beforehand.

Posted 23 September 2011

Departing Faculty

With the beginning of Fall semester, 2011, two faculty members have left the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science. Professor Marc Corliss has accepted a new job working for Google in New York City. Professor Scotty Orr, who for the past few years has worked half time in teaching and half time in system administration, has resigned from that position.

Posted 23 August 2011

Lex Kridler: After Hobart

Lex Kridler '10 sends some news about what he has been doing since graduating from HWS:

"I started work as a front-end developer (css, html, javascript) at Resource Interactive (www.resource.com) a month after graduating from Hobart. Since starting at RI, I have helped develop websites for clients such as Victoria's Secret Pink, Bush's Beans, Kohl's, Hewlett Packard, Dentyne, Bose, Wendy's, Sherwin-Williams, and others. Currently, I am the only front-end web developer on the Purina Cat Chow site redesign, a new responsibility for me.

"This past January, Resource Interactive was named the fourth best digital agency in the country by AdAge magazine, a leading magazine in the digital agency industry. The day after we found out about our award from AdAge we were greeted at work with waffles and champagne in one of the three kitchens in the Columbus office. I either learn or experience something new every day at RI.

"This past spring I helped coach the Junior Varsity lacrosse team at the high school from which I graduated. It was a nice change of pace to go from work to lacrosse practice...

"Also outside of work, about four months ago I created Fluid Ideation LLC through which I do freelance web development. I have worked with two clients through Fluid Ideation, and I have meetings this week with two new clients. Let me know if you need a website!"


Posted 17 August 2011

Back to School

Keenan Simons (Hobart '09) will be starting graduate school at the University of Central Florida in the Fall. He will pursue a Masters Degree there, with a focus on computer vision and computer graphics.

Keenan was a double major in Mathematics and Computer Science at Hobart, and he received the department's John Klein Prize for excellence in Computer Science in 2009.


Posted 28 July 2011

Penrose Mandala

Heading up the stairs to the Math department in Lansing Hall, you'll notice the latest addition to the Department's art collection. It's an eight-foot circular double Penrose tiling in the form of a Mandala. The piece was a project in two sections of Math 110 taught by Professor John Vaughn in the Spring semester of 2011. A Penrose tiling covers the plane with shapes in an aperiodic (non-repeating) pattern. Each half of the Mandala shows (an approximation of) a different pattern.

Posted 14 June 2011

Graph Theory Article Published

An article by Professor Erika King and her students, Trevor Gionet and Yixiao Sha, has been published in the journal Discrete applied Mathematics. The article, which is titled "A revision and extension of results on 4-regular, 4-connected, claw-free graphs," corrects a classification of 4-connected, claw-free, well-covered graphs that was published in 1995.

Posted 2 June 2011