xkcd in Math Horizons

Randall Monroe using The Force (from the Horizons article)

The Mathematical Association of America (aka the MAA) publishes a monthly magazine for math undergrads called Math Horizons.  It’s a great magazine with a wide variety of articles on all things math.  The latest issue has an interview with Randall Munroe, the creator of the comic xkcd.

You can read Math Horizons at their website.  Unfortunately, you have to have a subscription to read the full magazine online.  Fortunately, you can read the interview here.  Or read the full magazine issue here.

We particularly recommend the article by Chuck Wessell which explains the timely mathematical fact that a person could become president while only receiving 17.56% of the popular vote!

In the Math Horizons interview with Randall Monroe it’s no surprise that they mostly talk about his more mathematical comics.  But we thought this one was more appropriate for this time of the semester:

Tim Chartier gives the 2012 MAA Distinguished Lecture!

Tim Chartier presents "March Mathness" as part of the
MAA Distinguished Lecture Series. (Photo from the MAA article)

We’re very happy to say that friend of the Math Club (and fellow math blogger) Tim Chartier was selected by the MAA to give their MAA Distinguished Lecture Series this year. On February 28, Dr. Chartier gave a talk entitled “March Mathness”where he talked about how to use linear algebra to rank sports teams.  Just the thing if you’re making your March Madness bracket!

There is an article about Dr. Chartier and his invited lecture here on the MAA website.

Or, if you’d like to watch the lecture and have a Math Club at home, the MAA has posted a video:

Thanks to our own Keri Kornelson for pointing out that Dr. Chartier received this honored invitation.

Martin Gardner and the College Math Journal

The Math Association of America has devoted the entire January issue of the College Mathematics Journal to Martin Gardner.  Best of all, the articles are free for the reading!  A great way to spend Spring Break!

Every article is a great read and, like Gardner’s columns, don’t need any high level math to enjoy.  For example, here’s a puzzle publicized in Martin Gardner’s column and in “Bracing Regular Polygons As We Race into the Future” by Greg N. Frederickson:

Imagine that you have before you an unlimited supply of rods all of the same length. They can be connected only at the ends. A triangle formed by joining three rods will be rigid but a four-rod square will not: it is easily distorted into other shapes without bending or breaking a rod or detaching the ends. The simplest way to brace the square so that it cannot be deformed is to attach eight more rods to form the rigid octahedron.

Suppose, however, you are confined to the plane. Is there a way to add rods to the square, joining them only at the ends, so that the square is made absolutely rigid? All rods must, of course, lie perfectly flat in the plane. They may not go over or under one another or be bent or broken in any way. The answer is: Yes, the square can be made rigid. But what is the smallest number of rods required?

– Martin Gardner’s column quoted in the above article.

Thanks to Michael Lugo for pointing out the Gardner issue.

New Orleans

Most people think of mathematicians as people who hole up in their office and only come out for more coffee.   They don’t realize it, but most mathematicians spend quite a bit of time traveling to visit collaborators and to go to conferences.  If you want to be up-to-date on the latest research, the best way is still to go and talk to the experts!

The big event of the year is the AMS/MAA Joint Mathematics Meetings (the JMM) in January.  This year it was in New Orleans and over 5000 people were expected to attend! It is simultaneously a huge conference with talks by experts from around the world on every conceivable area of math, and a huge social event.  People go to hear math, but also to run into friends from undergrad and graduate school, from REUs they were a part of, and everybody else they might know who does math.

Of course, OU was well represented.  There were OU faculty, grad students, and undergrads at the JMM.

First off, we should give a shout-out to Brian Archer, Andrew Holmes, and Patrick Orchard spoke about their undergrad research project with Dr. Kornelson:

“Orthogonal and Maximal Sets for Bernoulli Measures”

in the AMS Session on Dynamical Systems, and Topics in Analysis, II.  It’s especially worth noting that this was a talk in a regular research session of the conference (they have undergrad only sessions, and it’s already impressive to be invited to one of those!)!

Second, if you’d like to read more about what the day to day conference is like, the OU grad students have a great series of blog posts on the MGSA blog talking about their experiences at the meeting.  Check them out here.

Of course, some people seemed to go to the meeting just to have some tasty beignets :-) .

Beignets at Cafe du Monde, New Orleans