Math Talks

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We fear math. Research has found that 60% of university students have math anxiety, even accounting for the math and physics departments. But math is practical to daily life and fun to think and talk about. You just have to know how to pose the question.

On the evenings of Feb. 5 and Feb. 12, the College of Charleston Math Department will do just that.

For example, how do you know when to quit dating and marry the best candidate? Math can help! How can you win your NCAA basketball office pool? Math can give you the edge. How does a living system evolve? Math can provide a formula. Why does acupuncture work? Math knows!

From 6:00-7:00 pm on Wednesday, February 5 and Wednesday, February 12, the College of Charleston Math Department will present a series of four lectures on math topics that affect daily life. They are free and open to everyone, even the innumerate.

The Odd Behavior of Waves That Makes Acupuncture Beneficial
Dr. Alex Kasman will kick off the presentations with his Glimpse of Soliton Theory, which explains the unique action of waves – those on the beach, producing sound and light, and everywhere else. Scottish engineer John Scott Russell observed in 1834 that waves colliding ran right through each other, rather than reinforcing or canceling each other out. Though his theory was dismissed, mathematicians have since produced a proof.

This proof has also been used to explain how acupuncture works to provoke vibrations that produce therapeutic effects.

Demonstrating How Living Systems Adapt Over Time
The same night, Dr. Garrett Mitchener will present his research on a topic with the intimidating name of Evolving Adaptive Coincidence-Detecting Neurons. This field of inquiry helps us understand how languages devolve, how your body adapts to alterations in the environment, or how any other living system changes over time.

Dr. Mitchener will particularly address how his computational models have predicted the evolution of biochemical processes.

Winning the Office Pool…Every Time
How do go about ranking the 68 teams in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament for the best chance of winning your office pool? Dr. Amy Langville and her students develop algorithms that determine whether data can be ranked and how best to do it. In 2008, a pair of Dr. Langville’s students did just that and predicted on National Public Radio that Kansas would win the tournament and Kansas St. would upset the University of Southern California in the first round. (Look it up.)

In her talk on The Rankability of Data on Feb. 12, Dr. Langville explains that the ability to rank has numerous applications, including web search, data mining, cybersecurity, machine learning, and statistical learning theory.

When Should You Sell Your Enron Stock?
Wouldn’t you love to know the optimal time to pull the trigger on a stock trade, or a house purchase, or even when to stop dating and settle on a mate? Dr. Martin Jones will explain how in his Introduction to Stopping Theory, also on Feb 12.

Dr. Jones will consider some famous optimal stopping problems, some applications and several problems with applying cold, hard numbers to variable human relations. 

The Math Talks will take place at the Lowcountry Graduate Center, 3880 Paramount Drive in North Charleston and are free of charge. Each presentation will last about 25 minutes including Q&A and refreshments will be served.