# Visiting the TORUS

We told you in January about the fantastic TORUS math conference (note: the O in TORUS stands for Oklahoma!).  Jeffery Dittenber, an OU math major who went with Dr. Hall to TORUS, volunteered to tell about his many adventures.  We asked him the same questions we asked the ladies who went to Nebraska. It sounds like TORUS should also become an annual event for OU students!

Unfortunately, TORUS is not held in the Stanford Torus.

Here’s what Jeffery had to say about TORUS:

0.  Why did you decide to go to TORUS?

I decided to go because I love math and learning about math in a no pressure atmosphere. I was interested in seeing what a math conference would be like. Also, I was interested in finding out about student presentation material for next semester.

1. What happens at this conference? What did you do there?

The conference has two key speakers, who were math professors (PhDs) and they were separated by several student presentations. The student presentations were very broad in subject matter and all understandable to a math major. There was a panel comprised of people who work in mathematics careers. They answered questions from the audience. There was lunch included and served as well as snacks and beverages. At the end, there was a friendly “Math Jeopardy” competition that was a lot of fun.

2. Give 5 words that describe the TORUS conference.

Fun. Friendly. Inspiring.  Interesting. Worthwhile. Repeatable.

3. What was your expectation for the conference? What did it actually turn out to be like?

I thought I would hear talks on higher level geometries that were very specialized and I would just sort of listen and nod and try to make sense of what I was hearing. On the contrary, it was all very understandable, and I look very forward to presenting my own talk next year. I might do a talk on the Buckingham Pi Theorem. I just learned about it today from a colleague.

4. What was the coolest math thing you heard?

The coolest thing I heard was that there were engineers turning to mathematicians to find formulas and equations for their projects. I was very happy to hear this!

5. What’s the best piece of information you received at the conference? The thing you will be sure to remember?

The best piece of information I learned my way of learning and studying math (by making videos and tutoring) is a real and researched way to learn math. I thought I was the only person who had to be able to explain how to do a problem to be able to understand it. I learned a lot that vindicated a lot of ideas I had about learning and teaching math.

6. What would you say to someone thinking about going to next year’s conference?

I say definitely do it. Even present a talk. I think it is a great experience and probably a good “trial run” for doing mathematics professionally.

# Math Club on Wednesday!

Dr. Paul wondering who stole all the books from his shelves..

Dr. Sean Paul, a professor at the University of Wisconsin, will be speaking in the Math Club this

Wednesday, April 3rd at 5 pm in PHSC 1105.

Fun Fact:  Dr. Paul is a Sooner!  He graduated from OU in 1996 and then went to Princeton for graduate school.  If you’re thinking about going on to grad school, here is a great chance to ask him for “real world” advice about how he went from OU to Princeton.

Dr. Paul will be talking about “The Cayley GKZ Theory of Discriminants, Resultants, and Multidimensional Determinants”.  Here’s the abstract:

When do two complex number polynomials have a common root? When does a given polynomial have a double root? What is the determinant of a two by two by two matrix (the third “two” is not a typo) ? What is the determinant of a sequence (i.e. complex) of matrices?

We will give answers and hints to some of these questions in the talk.

— Dr. Paul’s abstract

There will also be the canonical Free Pizza!

# Math the Band

How can you not love a band called Math the Band?  The bad news is that they aren’t a Tom Lehrer cover band (which, by the way, the world desperately needs!).

The good news is that they are:

…a electro-punk spazz duo from Providence, RI. They use a combination of old video game systems, analog synthesizers and energy drinks to make the fastest, loudest, most party-est music they can imagine. They’ve only cracked their head open on stage ONCE.
– from Math the Band’s bandcamp.com webpage

They are a perfect antidote to feeling groggy during finals week (it’s like injecting Redbull directly into your inner ear!).

You can hear all their music here on their website.  And if you want a direct injection of Math the Band, you can see them this Sunday in Norman at the Ampy Shanty!

For an entirely different experience, check out their acoustic version of “Why Didn’t You Get A Haircut?”:

# Frank Morgan in Math Club!

This week there are two (two!) Math Clubs!  Dr. Frank Morgan of Williams College will be talking on

Friday, November 16th in PHSC 100 at 4 pm.

(note the unusual day, time, and location!)

Dr. Morgan will be talking about “Optimal Pentagonal Tilings”:

Hales proved that the least-perimeter way to tile the plane with unit areas is by regular hexagons. What is the least-perimeter way to tile the plane with unit-area pentagons? We’ll discuss some new results, examples, and open questions, including work by undergraduates. See our joint article with students in the May 2012 Notices of the American Mathematical Society.

– Dr. Morgan’s abstract

In an amazing coincidence (we swear!), this fits exactly with the Problem of the Month!

Among his many accomplishments, we would be remiss if we didn’t point out Dr. Morgan’s TV show.  He was the host of Math Chat, a live call-in TV show about math.  It must be seen!  Check it out:

# Volunteers Needed!

Each year we host the OU Math Day for High School Students.  If you went to school in OK, some of you may have come to it back in the day.

This year’s Math Day is on Thursday, November 15th.  Dr. Pitale tells us that we have over 270 students coming this year!  That’s terrifyingly exciting!

If you’d like to be a part of the action, email Dr. Pitale and volunteer!  If you have an hour or two to spare, it would be a big help.  Plus it’s great fun!

The good news is that we are having friend of the Blog, Frank Morgan, as the invited speaker. In addition to being a top-notch mathematician and speaker, he has not one but two blogs!

If you’ve at OU for a few years, you might remember Dr. Morgan from his ill-fated visit 2 1/2 years ago.  Fortunately, he doesn’t hold epic ice storms against us!

Whether you or not you volunteer, you should stop by and see Dr. Morgan’s Math Day talk.  He’s requested a large bucket filled with soapy water!

Dr. Morgan at work! (Photo courtesy of Jeff Bauer of Citco)

# Math Club!

Dr. Kujawa at 11,450 ft

On

Wednesday, October 17th at 5 pm in PHSC 1105

our own Dr. Jon Kujawa will be giving the first math club of the 2012-2013 season.  In addition to the usual Free Pizza!, he’ll be talking about:

“Burnt pancakes, Bill Gates, and the symmetric group”

Abstract:  I will tell the story of how these three things came to be interconnected.  No previous knowledge of the symmetric group, billionaires, or poorly made breakfast items will be required.

# Sooner Putnam!

This fall, as every fall, there is an OU Putnam problem solving group being led by Dr. Albert. People get together and have fun working on old Putnam problems and related puzzles. What’s Putnam? We talked about it here.  But the short version is it is full of cool, fun, and tough math puzzles.  As Dr. Albert put it:

The problems range across the undergraduate mathematics curriculum, but most do not require specialized knowledge of mathematics beyond calculus.

Over the years the exam has built up a good reputation for containing nice, interesting problems – the kind you find it hard to stop thinking about, whether you’ve managed to solve it or not. The best problems reveal attractive and intricate bits of mathematics lurking in seemingly simple situations.

– from Dr. Albert’s webpage

Rather like a recent xkcd cartoon (click through and then click and drag!):

If you’re interested, email Dr. Albert.  Or, better yet, just stop on by on Thursdays at 5 pm in Physical Sciences 1025, the tenth-floor classroom.

# Minipolymath4 Project Now Open!

As we talked about here, there was plans afoot to group-solve online an interesting and problem from the IMO.  The online discussion going on right now (unless, of course, you’re reading this later).  They decided to work on Question 3.  Here it is:

Problem 3.   The liar’s guessing game is a game played between two players $A$ and $B$.  The rules of the game depend on two positive integers $k$ and $n$ which are known to both players.

At the start of the game, $A$ chooses two integers $x$ and $N$ with $1 \leq x \leq N$.  Player $A$ keeps $x$ secret, and truthfully tells $N$ to player $B$.  Player $B$ now tries to obtain information about $x$ by asking player A questions as follows.  Each question consists of $B$ specifying an arbitrary set $S$ of positive integers (possibly one specified in a previous question), and asking $A$ whether $x$ belongs to $S$.  Player $B$ may ask as many such questions as he wishes.  After each question, player $A$ must immediately answer it with yes or no, but is allowed to lie as many times as she wishes; the only restriction is that, among any $k+1$ consecutive answers, at least one answer must be truthful.

After $B$ has asked as many questions as he wants, he must specify a set $X$ of at most $n$ positive integers.  If $x$ belongs to $X$, then $B$ wins; otherwise, he loses.  Prove that:

1. If $n \geq 2^k$, then $B$ can guarantee a win.
2. For all sufficiently large $k$, there exists an integer $n \geq 1.99^k$ such that $B$ cannot guarantee a win.

Check out (and join in on) the discussion here.