|OFF ON A TANGENT
|A Fortnightly Electronic Newsletter from the Hope
College Department of Mathematics
Hope Floats Kegger scheduled for
Join the mathematics faculty and fellow math students for root beer
floats on the covered walkway of VanderWerf Hall (outside the lecture
halls) on Thursday, September 8, from 4:00 to 5:00 p.m.. Enjoy a tasty
beverage and participate in our special “Root Beer Tricks and Trivia”
competition. You may win a valuable prize!
A note from our new professor, Nathan Tintle
Hi everyone! My wife Lisa and I are very excited to move to
Holland and join the Hope College community. Most recently we
were living in Somerset, NJ, where Lisa was a second grade teacher and
I was teaching statistics as an adjunct professor while completing my
Ph.D. at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. My
Ph.D. dissertation considered a new hypothesis test for analyzing
genetic (Single Nucleotide Polymorphism) data. But, I've also
been consulting for the last three years on a World Health Organization
mental health survey that was done in the country of Ukraine. In
addition, I'm currently wrapping up a project analyzing survey data
from Reformed Church in America (RCA) churches on the East Coast.
But, statistics isn't the only thing that I enjoy doing! In fact,
Lisa and I really enjoy being outdoors. Lisa and I met while
working at RCA Camp Warwick in New York, where we led backpacking, rock
climbing, and canoe trips. We still enjoy doing those things
today, although its tougher and tougher to find the time. One
reason is that we just purchased our first home, and despite the time
it takes, we are both enjoying replacing, fixing, and maintaining
things around the house.
Here at Hope I am looking forward to continuing the research I
mentioned above, as well as spending more time teaching, which is what
I really love to do! Once in a while, Lisa and I might even make
it up to the U.P. (correct use of Michigan lingo?) for some outdoor
(Editor's note: Prof. Tintle did get the U.P. lingo
correct. Now who is going to tell him that he is a troll?)
What I did on my summer vacation
You might think that the math faculty sit around all summer and think
great thoughts. While this might be somewhat true, they were
involved in other activities. The following is a synopsis of the
adventures of some of the faculty from this past summer.
Nathan Tintle bought a house
and moved to Holland from New Jersey. A week after he moved in,
his house was TP'd. Nothing says welcome home like a tree full of
toilet paper! When not packing and unpacking, he spent a week in
Northwest Iowa with one side of the family and another week in Vermont
with the other. In both places he enjoyed canoeing, jet skiing,
and hiking. He also worked on preparing a few papers for
Mark Pearson worked with three
students on a research project which he described as a blast. He
says they were the best research students he has ever worked
with. He went to a conference in Albuquerque where he also
enjoyed some hiking in the mountains. After that trip, he headed
for the north shore of Lake Superior to cool off. Since his
return to Holland, he has started a project of continually rearranging
As chair of the department, Darin
Stephenson spent May catching up on the work that he put off for
the past nine months. He spent June and July working with two
research students on a geometric probability problem. They
presented some of their results in Grand Rapids. He also managed
to spend some time working on his book for the Multivariable II class
and preparing it for possible publication. In August, he was
finally able to get away on a family trip to Kentucky and Wilmington,
John Stoughton took his
motorcycle on the annual Route 66 road rally from Chicago to Santa
Monica in June. On the way back, he traveled through Yellowstone
National Park where he visited with Hope grad Sara Tatge McCarty who
was working at the park. In July, he and his wife took a trip to
the Canadian Rockies.
Mary DeYoung went out to
Northwest Iowa to help her mom celebrate her 80th birthday. On
the way back, she spent a week with her husband's family in
Wisconsin. She also spent a week working at a church camp in New
York. Along with a student, she updated course material for Math
205. She also managed to play lots of tennis during the summer.
Aaron Cinzori’s wife gave birth
to their daughter Gwendolyn on March 23. As a result, Aaron is a
little fuzzy as to what exactly he did during the last part of the
spring semester and the first part of the summer. He did remember
giving a talk at Grand Valley in June that was titled, "Spiraling to my
Doom." (Which was not about having a newborn in the house.)
He spent most of his summer taking care of Gwendolyn and her five
year-old brother Isaac.
Airat Bekmetjev taught Math 210
during May term. The day after that course was concluded, his
research students arrived. He spent the next two months working
with them on pebbling. They developed a java applet for this
which can be found at http://math.hope.edu/bekmetjev/pebbling/.
(Note: The applet require Java 1.4.2_08 or higher and it may take
awhile (about 10 sec.) before it starts.) He also attended a
workshop at Ohio State with one of his students. Back at home, he
and his family tried to get to the beach as often as possible.
Janet Andersen, who spent the
last year at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, drove back to
Holland in May via Yellowstone. Once back, she worked with six
research students on a couple of different projects in mathematical
biology. She also reviewed proposals for the National Science
Foundation. She did manage to get away to Stratford, Ontario to
see a couple of plays. Her daughter's move from New Orleans to
New York a couple of weeks ago was hastened as she tried to stay a step
ahead of Hurricane Katrina
Tim Pennings administered the
REU (Research for Undergraduates) program for the math
department. He attended a seminar on politics and religion put on
by the Crossroads Project, had jury duty for one day, and helped his
folks celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. In June, Tim took
a trip to Utah and Idaho where he enjoyed hiking and mountain
biking. While there, he met up with Hope grad Brain Yurk and
managed to show that his dog Elvis had skills well beyond those of
Brian's Border Collies. He also managed to get away to the Upper
Peninsula to the “north forty.”
Todd Swanson spent May term
teaching GEMS 100. He spent the next month working on updating
class materials for Math 210, cleaning his office, and avoiding other
work. In June he took his family on a trip to Yellowstone and
Glacier National Parks. They ended up in the Canadian Rockies in
British Columbia and spent four long days driving through northern
prairie lands on the way back home. He spent most of the rest of
the summer running kids around from one activity to another, but did
manage to write a book review for a mathematics journal.
Problem of the Fortnight
only the second week of the semester, but most of you have probably
already nestled into your "assigned" seats for the term. We kick
off the problem solving season this year with a seating rearrangement
There are 25 seats in a certain classroom, arranged in five rows of
five seats per row. Each student is to change seats by going to
one of the four nearest seats -- the seat directly behind, directly in
front, immediately to the left or immediately to the right of the seat
he or she is currently using. Sitting on the floor isn't an
option -- and neither is sitting in someone's lap! Determine
whether a rearrangement following these rules is possible, starting
with a full class of 25 students, and explain your answer.
Write your solution on the back of one of your discarded fall schedules
-- you know, the ones you filled out before the last round of schedule
shuffling in the Drop-Add period -- and drop it in the Problem of the
Fortnight Slot outside Dr. Pearson's office (VWF 212) by 3:00 p.m. on
Friday, September 16.
Math in News: Electrolux, Electolux! ...um, I mean Eureka, Eureka!
As odd as it seems, Archimedes who is probably best known running
through Syracuse naked yelling Eureka!! Eureka!!, is making news these
days. A fragment of one of his essays, called the Stomachion, was
recently purchased at Christie's auction house in New York for the
modest sum of $2 million, and its return to daylight after a long
history of abuse and intrigue has excited mathematicians and historians
When the Fourth Crusade sacked Constantinople in 1204, monks tried to
erase the mathematical text of the Stomachion as best they could, and
they reused the beginnings of the text in a Christian prayer
book. A parchment that has been scraped and reused like this is
known as a palimpsest. When Danish mathematical historian Johan
Ludvig Heiberg unearthed the Stomachion palimpsest in a monastery
library in Istanbul at the beginning of the 20th century, he set about
trying to decipher the underlying script, and what he discovered was
amazing: the essay appears to describe a puzzle that might have been
used as a children's toy. But something else puzzled Heiberg: Why
would Archimedes, whose other mathematical works were truly monumental,
have spent time on something so frivolous as a children's toy?
Before other scholars could examine the faded script, the Stomachion
palimpsest was stolen and disappeared until 1998.
Now that the Stomachion palimpsest has been rediscovered,
mathematicians and historians believe they have found an answer to
Heiberg's question. To find out why the great mathematician
Archimedes was so interested in this children's puzzle, and to read
more of the fascinating history of the Stomachion palimpsest, please
||Got a Math Question?
Ask Elvis ...
... email him at email@example.com
I hope you all had a great break and were able to stay cool even during
the dog days of summer. (Perhaps is should be the Elvis days of
summer!) I know that I had trouble keeping cool. Do you
know where the term "dog days" comes from? It seems the ancient
Romans noticed that Sirius (the dog star and one of the brightest stars
in the sky) rose and set with the sun during the warmest time of
year. They assumed that the star was helping the sun heat up the
earth and termed this time of year as the dog days of summer.
While it is not true that Sirius was heating up the earth, the name
Cats also have things named for them you know. For example, here
are a few:
Well enough about cats. I had one question to answer for this
newsletter. If you have a question about math, about Hope, about
cats, or anything else that I may help you with, sent me an email at
firstname.lastname@example.org and I will do my best to give you a response.
- Catapult: a devise for launching cats over the tops of trees.
- Catastrophe: what happens when you try to get eight cats together
for a play date.
- Cataract: This is when a cat claws someone's eyes out.
- Catcall: The sound of a can opener that calls cats to
- Catenary: What you call a cat after it has eaten a small yellow
- Catatonic: The state of most cats most of the time.
I know this isn't a math question, but it seems that perhaps you might
know the answer. The math department is located in VanderWerf,
yet when you walk down the hall to class you are in VanZoeren.
Why is it that this one building has two names?
Konfused in Kollen
I guess that while it is easy to change some things about a building,
it is hard to change the name. These buildings were once two
separate buildings. VanZoeren was built in 1961 as a library
after a gift was given by Gerrit VanZoeren, a local chemist and Hope
graduate. VanderWerf was built in 1964 and was named the Physics
Mathematics Hall. The name was changed to VanderWerf Hall in in
1981 in honor of Hope's eighth president Calvin VanderWerf.
In 1989 Hope had its own version of Extreme Makeover -- College Edition.
The library had already moved into their new building and a group of
builders headed by Ty VanPennington gutted and transformed VanZoeren
and VanderWerf into the gem of a building that now serves the
college. The faculty, of course, were whisked away to Disney
World to wait out the amazing transformation.
day Alice came to a fork in the road and saw a Cheshire cat in a tree.
Which road do I take? she asked. Where do you want to go? was his
response. I don't know, Alice answered. Then, said the cat, it doesn't
Lewis Carroll 1832-1898