|OFF ON A TANGENT
|A Fortnightly Electronic Newsletter from the Hope
College Department of Mathematics
|September 24, 2003
||Vol. 2, No. 2
Information session about the GRE is
scheduled for tomorrow
Taking the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) is a requirement for entrance
into many graduate schools. The Hope Pew Society and the Office
of Career Services are sponsoring an information session on the GRE.
Professor Kim Risley of the Department of Biology will discuss the
mechanics of the GRE, what students might do to prepare for the exam,
and answer questions. The session will be tomorrow night,
September 25, from 7:00 to 8:00 p.m., in VWF 102.
For more information, go to the Career Service’s GRE web page: http://www.hope.edu/student/career/GRE.html.
The site provides more information on the GRE, including subject test
dates, and announces the availability of some practice test software.
Problem Solvers of the Fortnight
Congratulations to Michael Banducci, Robert Dody, Peter Holden,
Mackenzie Smith, Sarah Story, Nick Sumner and Sara Tatge, all of whom
correctly determined that the four weights allowing any integral weight
from 1 to 40 pounds to be weighed are 1, 3, 9 and 27 pounds. The "blue
ribbon" prize this fortnight goes to Nick Sumner, and he, along with
all other authors of correct solutions, may claim their prizes from Dr.
Catalano (VWF 209).
Last fortnight's problem about the merchant's weights is a famous one,
first posed in 1624 by Bachet de Meziriac, whose books on mathematical
puzzles and games became the classical ones of that genre. Bachet is
probably most famous, though, for his Latin translation of Diophantus's
Greek text Arithmetica, for it was in the margins of a copy of that
translation that Fermat wrote his famous "Last Theorem," claiming, "I
have discovered a truly remarkable proof which this margin is too small
to contain." Had Bachet's margins been larger, Fermat might have been
able to provide his "remarkable proof" himself; instead Fermat's Last
Theorem was the subject of intense scrutiny for the next 350 years,
drawing the attention of some of the world's greatest mathematicians,
and was proved in 1994 by Andrew Wiles. To read more about this
interesting chapter in the history of mathematics, beginning with
Bachet, see http://www-gap.dcs.st-and.ac.uk/~history/Mathematicians/Bachet.html
and follow the links to Fermat and Wiles.
Surf's Up. . . A Useful Web Resource
What is Fermat's Last Theorem? Check out http://www.wikipedia.org/ for
a description. Wikipedia is a free web encyclopedia containing articles
on just about anything in many different languages -- including some in
Esperanto, for those of you who have made the transition. It has an
extensive mathematics section, where you can read about hypercomplex
numbers, bone up on the Fundamental Theorem of Calculus, or do a search
to find out what Penrose tilings are (they're really cool!).
The Problem of the Fortnight
It’s that time of year again. Time for naïve
hopefulness to rise up against brutal realism and decades of
despair. Time for fatalistic skepticism to wrestle with the
vestiges of optimism that remain hidden deep within the hearts of many
among us. Time for long-suffering fans of the North Siders to
agonize once again over happenings at the Friendly Confines. Yes,
we are nearing the end of the baseball season and the Cubs are still in
In fact, as we write, the Cubs are ½ game behind division
Houston. The Cubs have six games to play and Houston has
current records are:
What are the chances that the Cubbies win their division? The
Cubs must finish with more wins than Houston, or, should they tie after
finishing the 162 game schedule, the Cubs would have to beat Houston in
a single elimination game.
Let’s assume that the current percentages given above represent each
team’s probability of winning any particular game, and assume this
remains constant for the rest of the regular season. Should the
teams tie, assume the probability of either team winning the single
elimination game is 50%. Under these assumptions, what is
the probability that the Cubs will win the division? (Note: the Cubs
are not scheduled to play Houston during their remaining six games.)
Solve the problem and pin the hopes of thousands of Cubs fans on a
single, unforgiving number. Drop your solution in the Problem of
the Fortnight slot outside Dr. Pearson’s office (VWF 212) by 3:00 p.m.
on Friday, October 3.
What can you do with a degree in mathematics? How about being a
president of a country. Or a song writer. Or perhaps a
professional athlete. Check out the list of famous
nonmathematians at http://www.loyola.edu/mathsci/resources/famousnonmathematicians.htm.
The Annual Undergraduate Research Celebration is coming
Hope's 3rd Annual Undergraduate Research Celebration is being held
this year on Friday, October 17 (4 - 7:00pm) in the new Science
Center. A preview of the poster session will be held for the
Trustees on the evening of October 16. For both events to run
it is requested that all posters be
displayed by 6 pm on Thursday, October 16. If you have done
an independent study in the past year, you should display your results
at this event. Abstracts are due by September 29.
Therefore, it is
important for you to get together with your faculty mentor as soon as
possible to get this done.
Michigan Autumn Take Home Challenge will be held soon
As mentioned in the last newsletter, the 2003 Michigan Autumn Take Home
Challenge (or MATH Challenge) will
take place on the morning of Saturday, November 1 this year.
Teams of two or three students take a three-hour exam consisting of ten
interesting problems dealing with topics and concepts found in the
undergraduate mathematics curriculum. Each team takes the exam at
their home campus under the supervision of a faculty advisor.
Each year 20-30 teams compete in this competition with teams from Hope
regularly placing in the top three. Last year, two of our teams
tied for third behind Alma and Tri-State University.
Contact Prof. Cinzori for more details.
Three undergraduate mathematics
conferences are slated for this fall
There are three opportunities this fall for students to participate
The Pew Undergraduate Research
Symposium for the Physical Sciences and
Mathematics is scheduled for Friday to Sunday, November 12 to 14
University of Chicago. This conference is for students who want
to give 15 minute talks or poster presentation. This is a great
opportunity for you to present your work from summer research or
studies. The deadline is for completed pre-registration forms,
housing reservation forms, and abstracts is Friday October 3,
contact Prof. Kenneth Brown (chemistry department), Representative of
the Local PEW Consortium, at
firstname.lastname@example.org for more information, and to obtain all necessary
forms. You can also visit the PEW 2003 Symposium website at http://www.college.uchicago.edu/pewsym/
The Pi Mu Epsilon Regional
Undergraduate Math Conference will be held at St. Norbert
College in DePere, Wisconsin on November 7 and 8. Students are
welcomed to give short talks. The deadline for registration for
this conference is November 3. For more information, visit http://www.snc.edu/mathclub/pme.htm.
Finally, closer to home, the Michigan
will be held on Saturday, October 25 at the Grand Rapids campus of GVSU
(the deadline for registration is October 17). This is another
great opportunity for students to give 15 minute talks about their
summer research or independent studies.
In addition, this is an excellent venue for students to obtain
information about graduate schools and career
opportunities. The keynote speaker is Dr. Suzanne Lenhart (Univ.
of Tennessee). For more details contact Prof. Andersen or go to http://www.gvsu.edu/math/mumc.html