Mathematical Association of America
in Mesquite, Texas on April 11, 12 and 13, 2002
The Texas Section of the MAA held its 2002 annual meeting in Mesquite, Texas on April 11, 12 and 13th on the campus of Eastfield College.
Dr. Eric Rawdon, Duquesne University, conducted a short course
on Thursday evening at 7:00 p.m. on the Eastfield College campus in
Building C, room 295. He has degrees from St. Olaf College and the
University of Iowa. The title was Physical Knot Theory.
You go to the closet to pull out that extension cord that has been buried under years of memories. It is a big tangled mess which takes you ten minutes to untangle. You are the victim of random knotting. Some knots are easier to tie and, thus, more likely to occur in your extension cord. This is one of many ways to measure the complexity of a knot. Another strategy is to find the position of a certain knot that is optimal in some regard (e.g. it takes the fewest number of line segments or the least amount of rope to tie). We explored some measures of knot complexity, the relationships between these measures, and an application of optimal knots to molecular biology. Each participant received their own KTC (knot theory certified) knot-maker (also known as a piece of rope) as well as a knot strength-o-meter (also known as fishing line). This short course mixed hands-on experiments and lecture to explore knotting in physical systems. It was self-contained so no experience with knot theory was assumed.
Friday morning's schedule included the early session, "Distance Learning on the Cutting Edge" for the Project NExT meeting which was open to anyone interested in distance learning.
It was followed by the Student Forum which was presented by Dr. Michael Monticino (Ph.D., University of Miami). He began his career with Daniel H. Wagner Associates. At Wagner Associates, he worked on problems in anti-submarine warfare, acoustic modeling and optimal ship routing using mathematical techniques from stochastic processes, game theory, search theory, and probability. He has been at the University of North Texas since 1991. He has published research articles in stochastic optimal control, theoretical gambling theory, random walks, as well as recent work on constructive methods for generating random probability measures.
Dr. Monticino has worked as a consultant for several companies, including IBM, the Institute for Defense Analyses, Anderson Consulting, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Applied Decision Analysis Inc., and the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport. He regularly organizes seminars and gives talks to students, from high school to graduate school, on research and employment opportunities for mathematicians in industry and government. The title of his talk was Applying Mathematics: A Personal Perspective. The following is an abstract:
This talk discussed the application of mathematics to help solve real world problems. The mathematical as well as the interpersonal challenges of applying mathematics were explored. Several case studies were presented, including Internet data analysis for IBM and PAramark Inc., cash need forecasting and risk analysis for a leading check cashing company and resource allocation for the U.S. Navy.
The morning concluded with the TAAAMS Department Chairs' Forum.
The Invited Address Friday afternoon featured Mr. Jack S. Kilby, Texas Instruments Inc., the inventor who demonstrated the First Integrated Circuit in 1958. He is the recipient of two of the nation's most prestigious honors in science and engineering. In 1970, in a White House ceremony, he received the National Medal of Science. In 1982, he was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame, taking his place alongside Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, and the Wright Brothers. In 2000, Jack Kilby was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for his part in the invention of the integrated circuit.
He has degrees in electrical engineering from the University of Illinois and the University of Wisconsin, as well as honorary doctorates from the University of Miami, Rochester Institute of Technology, University of Illinois, Southern Methodist University, Texas A&M University, and Georgia Institute of Technology. He holds more than sixty U. S. patents.
Presentations and talks were given throughout the meeting on Friday afternoon. Over ten vendors had tables to bring us the latest publications and technological improvements.
Friday evening's reception at the Hampton Inn featured The "Math Keteers" who entertained us with songs on banjo (Stuart Anderson), guitar (Gary Taylor and Jerry "Mike" Winn) and bass (Nicholas Kiselov) prior to the meal consisting of London Broil and cheescake. We honored Dr. William D. Clark, a most deserving educator from Stephen F. Austin with the Distinguished College or University Teaching of Mathematics Award and presented certificates to our 25 and 50-year members. The 50-year members are:
Our banquet speaker was Paul Geisel from the University of Texas at Arlington, who was both entertaining and informative.
The first Saturday morning speaker was Dr. Robert Northcutt from Southwest Texas State University. The title of his talk was Tricks of the Trade and Lessons in Humility
The first keynote address was given by Dr. Barbara Shipman, University
of Texas at Arlington. She has degrees (a B.S in 1989 and a Ph.D. in
1995 in mathematics) from the University of Arizona. Her primary
mathematical interests are in the geometry of dynamical systems, in
particular, completely integrable Hamiltonian systems, and in
applications of mathematics to modern problems in biology and physics.
Since then she has given numerous invited talks on the geometry of the dance language, including an appearance on National Public Radio's All Things Considered and a keynote address at the Sixth Annual Dynamical Neuroscience Symposium, sponsored by the National Institute of Health.
Her interest in the dance of the honeybee began in grade school when she learned about the dance from her father, who studies the physics of honeybee behavior. The title of her talk was The Geometry of the Honeybee's Dance. The following is an abstract:
Inside an active beehive, honeybees perform dances to communicate to their sisters the location of sources of nectar or pollen. This dance contains information of both distance and direction, and its geometry changes with the location of the food source. It turns out that the patterns of the dance are found in the geometry of a six-dimensional space known as a flag manifold. The geometry reflects the transition from the waggle dance, used for more distant sources, into the round dance, used for nearby sources. It also has a physical interpretation that suggests that the performance of the dance may involve processes that are quantum mechanical.
The second keynote address was given by Dr. Frank Morgan. He studies geometry and shapes, from soap bubbles to universes. His books include Riemannian Geometry, Geometric Measure Theory, Calculus Lite, and The Math Chat Book, based on his live, call-in Math Chat TV show and Math Chat column, available at the MAA's website. He has just finished a term as Second Vice President of the Mathematical Association of America, and is currently Dennis Meenan '54 Third Century Professor of Mathematics at Williams College. The following is an abstract for his talk:
Recent progress on soap bubbles, including work by undergraduates, leaves many questions open. The show included a guessing contest with demonstrations, explanations, and prizes.
Our business meeting was held at 11:30 a.m. to officially perform the duties of the Section which included an eloquent resolution presentation by Dr. R. G. Dean from Stephen F. Austin University.
There was a new item this year. Door prizes were given away at the close of the Business Meeting To be eligible for a door prize at this drawing, you had to be a member of the Mathematical Association of America, and you had to be present to win. Prizes included two passes, each good for one round-trip transportation between any two cities on Southwest Airlines' system, tickets to the Mesquite Championship Rodeo, tickets to the Dallas Sidekicks game, one night's stay at the Hampton Inn & Suites, one night's stay at the Courtyard by Marriott, passes to play golf, a coupon for pizza, passes to the Dallas Arboretum, and a nice gift from Texas Instruments.
Here are some more pictures of the festivities to enjoy: