Off on a Tangent
A Fortnightly Electronic Newsletter from the Hope College Department of Mathematics
  March 31, 2010 Vol. 8, No. 11

Divisional Seminars

There are two divisional seminars this week and next.  Tomorrow (Thursday, April 1) at 11 a.m. in VWF 102, U.S. Representative Vernon Ehlers of Grand Rapids will present the address “The Next Hundred Years of Science: It’s All About the Students.”  

Ehlers’s presentation will be informed not only by his tenure in both the state and federal legislature—where his emphases include K-12 science education--but also by his background as the first research physicist to serve in Congress.  He holds a doctorate in nuclear physics and taught and conducted research at both the University of California at Berkeley and Calvin College for several years.

Next week Thursday (April 8) at 11 a.m. in Winants Auditorium in Graves Hall, Dr. Cora Marrett, Deputy Director of the National Science Foundation, will present the final keynote address for Centennial Year Celebration for Hope's Natural and Applied Science Division.

Next week's colloquium

Title:  What I (Re)-Learned From the 100-Digit Challenge
Speakers:  Prof. Aaron Cinzori
Time:  Thursday, April 8 at 4:00 p.m.
Place:  VWF 104

 We will explore how a team of mathematics and engineering faculty here at Hope could not resist a deal to earn $100 for solving 10 math problems in a competition with teams from all over the world in the 100-Dollar 100-Digit Challenge.  Most of the problems are stated simply and  involve integration, matrix calculations, minimization, probability, or geometry.  We will look at a few of the problems and their solutions as well as discuss problem solving in  general. 

The Undergraduate Research Celebration

This year's Celebration of Undergraduate Research & Creative Performance will be held Friday April 9, 2:30-4:30 p.m. in the DeVos field house.  This year there will be 211 presentations representing 351 students and 112 faculty.  There will be a number of poster presentations from mathematics students.  This is a great opportunity to see the different types of research conducted by Hope students.

Zach Mitchell is shown here from last year's celebration with his poster titled “Turning out the Lights.”  He, along with Kathryn Johnson, studied a generalization of the game Lights Out and used graph theory to determine which graphs in certain families were winnable.

Weird Math in the News
While Hope professors were slaving away at trying to earn $100 by solving 10 problems (see above colloquium announcement) Gregori Perelman was at work solving a the Poincaré Conjecture.  Proving this conjecture was among the Clay Mathematics Institute's Millennium Prize Problems and doing so would earn a person $1,000,000.

Perelman developed a proof for this conjecture.  In 2006 he was awarded the Fields Medal in mathematics, which he refused.  Last week it was announced that he would receive the Millennium Prize and $1,000,000 that went with it. It appears as though he is again refusing that award.  For more on this story, click here.

Spring Social Event

A good time was had by all at the recent Mathematics Spring Social Event.  Students and faculty enjoyed playing a variety of games, eating pizza, and each other's company.  

The event concluded with a pieing of Prof. Chuck Cusak.  Although he was the third runner up in the voting, the top three were not available.   It was noted that there was a can of whipped cream left over from the event, so perhaps one or more of the top vote getters may still get their just "desserts!"
Math Club News

Math club would like to extend a big thank you to all who participated in the social event, and especially to those who contributed to the pie-in-the-face contest. We raised right around $32. We have decided to donate this money to Haiti relief through the Red Cross.

In other news, we will not have a meeting this week, but we will have one next week, Thursday April 8th at 7:00 in VZN 298. Happy Spring!

Tintle wins award


Dr. Nathan Tintle recently received the "Dean's Science Division Faculty Promise for Excellence in Research Award."  Prof. Tintle is engaged in statistics genetics research.  His current projects include innovations in the design and analysis of genome-wide association; an interdisciplinary effort to extend the capability of the RAST (Rapid Annotation using Subsystems Technology) genome analysis service; and innovations to the curriculum of the college's statistics courses.

For more information click here.

Travels with Elvis

Professor Pennings and Elvis took their dog and pony show on the road this past spring break to Virginia.  They visited Roanoke College, Davidson College, the University of Virginia, James Madison University and the Greater Richmond Council of Teachers of Mathematics Spring Conference.  Just as in previous years, they created some media attention.  Visit the following two links to see Tim and Elvis in action.

Unsolved Mathematics Problems

In the movie Good Will Hunting, Matt Damon's character, Will Hunting, is a janitor at MIT.  He solves a difficult graduate-level mathematics problem that is left of the chalk board in a room he is cleaning.  

This story was most likely inspired by the real-life event in which a student showed up late for class.  There were three problems written on the board and the student assumed that they were  all part of his test.  He solved them all and turned in his paper.  As it turns out, the first two were test questions and the third was an example of an unsolved problem in mathematics.  The student's name was George Dantzig (pictured on the right).  To read more about this story click here.

TI-Nspire Workshop

Texas Instruments is offering a 3-day TI-Nspire summer workshops around the country for pre-service mathematics teachers   You must be planning to graduate by the summer of 2011.  The cost of the workshop is $25 and all attendees will receive a TI-Nspire handheld with Touchpad and TI-Nspire Teacher Software.  Click here for more information.

Problem Solvers of the Fortnight

In our last problem of the fortnight you were asked to determine the UNITS digit of:

                             12010 + 22010 + 32010 + ... + 20092010
+ 20102010

A complete solution to this problem can be found here.

Congratulations to the students that correctly solve this problem:  Dani Poll, Eric Hallaquist, Clare Hubbard, Dan Simpson, Derek Blok, Nick Powers, Stew Harlow, Emily Scott, Zach Mitchell, Colin Zoellner, Nolan Wiersma, Andrew McCubbin, XiSen Hou, and Stuart Webert.

Problem of the Fortnight

Your sock drawer has 25 electric yellow socks, 30 blue striped socks, 17 orange socks, 13 magnetic socks, 33 pale purple socks, 30 royal red socks, 11 gruesome green socks, 14 midnight black socks, and 23 bruin brown socks!  If you reach into the drawer in the dark, how many socks do you need to pull out to be sure you have a matching pair?

Write your solution (not just an answer) on a pair of socks and drop it off in the official Problem of the Fortnight slot (or sock drawer) outside Dr. Pearson's office (VWF 212) by 3:00 p.m. on Friday, April 9.  As always, be sure to include your name, the name(s) of your professor(s), and your math class(es) -- e.g. Pippi Longstocking, Dr. Barefoot Ted, Math 299 -- on your solution. 

Some of the world's greatest feats were accomplished by people not smart enough to know they were impossible.

Don Larson
Off on a Tangent