2011 Conference Guest Speakers – Abstracts & Bios

Tony DeRose, Pixar Animation Studios

Title: Math in the Movies
Abstract: Film-making is undergoing a digital revolution brought on by advances in areas such as computer technology, computational physics, geometry, and approximation theory. Using numerous examples drawn from Pixar’s feature films, this talk will provide a behind-the-scenes look at the role that math plays in the revolution.
Bio: Tony DeRose is currently a Senior Scientist and lead of the Research Group at Pixar Animation Studios. He received a BS in Physics from the University of California, Davis, and a Ph.D. in Computer Science from the University of California, Berkeley. From 1986 to 1995, Dr. DeRose was a Professor of Computer Science and Engineering at the University of Washington. In 1998, he was a major contributor to the Oscar-winning short film “Geri’s Game.” In 1999, he received the ACM SIGGRAPH Computer Graphics Achievement Award, and in 2006 he received a Scientific and Technical Academy Award for his work on surface representations.

Dave Kung, St. Mary’s College of Maryland

Title: How Math Made Modern Music Mad Irrational
Abstract: The scale used by 20th century classical musicians is strikingly different from that used in Bach’s time.  In fact, over the past 500 years, a wide variety of scales have permeated Western music.  Amazingly, none of them was “in tune”!  In fact, in some sense, no piano is everin tune. The reason for this is purely mathematical. Starting with a single vibrating string, we’ll use some physics and some advanced mathematics to make sense of the various sounds a violin can make.  Add to the mix a little music theory and some basic arithmetic, and we’ll be able to construct several different scales and see what’s “wrong” with each one.  Finally, by constructing the modern scale, we’ll be able to answer the question posed in the title. Throughout the talk, these concepts will be illuminated with excerpts played on the violin, including passages from Bach, Vivaldi, Mendelssohn, Tchaikovsky and a few more modern composers.
Bio: Dave Kung fell in love with both mathematics and music at a very early age.  More successful with one than the other, he completed three degrees from the University of Wisconsin – Madison, none in music, before joining the faculty at St. Mary’s College of Maryland.  Now chair of the Mathematics and Computer Science Department, he still enjoys playing violin with students and in the local community orchestra. He has authored a variety of articles on topics in harmonic analysis and mathematics education, and is the recipient of numerous awards including the 2006 Teaching Award from the MD/VA/DC section of the MAA. He was invited to give the 2010 Undergraduate Lecture in Mathematics at the Joint Meetings and is co-writing a book about college math teaching entitled, “What Could They Possibly Be Thinking? Understanding Your College Math Students.”

Jennifer Quinn, University of Washington Tacoma

Title: Mathematics to DIE For: The Battle Between Counting and Matching
Abstract: Positive sums count. Alternating sums match. So which is “easier” to consider mathematically? From the analysis of infinite series, we know that if a positive sum converges, then its alternating sum must also converge; but the converse is not true. From linear algebra we know that the permanent of an n x n matrix is usually hard to calculate; whereas, its alternating sum, the determinant, can be computed efficiently and it has many nice theoretical properties. In this talk you will judge a combinatorial competition between the competing techniques. Be prepared to explore a variety of positive and alternating sums involving binomial coefficients, Fibonacci numbers, and other beautiful combinatorial quantities. How are the terms in each sum concretely interpreted? What is being counted? What is being matched? Do alternating sums always give simpler results? You decide.

Bill Velez, University of Arizona

Title: Mathematical Training: The Open Road Before US
Abstract: The role of mathematics has changed dramatically over the last few decades.  The biological sciences now require substantial amounts of mathematics as they have become more quantitative. Graduate level courses in economics look like courses in real analysis. Digitization surrounds us and presents us with even greater opportunities to apply mathematics. The mathematical training that undergraduates receive is much more than the sum of its parts. It is not just the mathematical tools that we learn but also the attention to detail that makes mathematicians such a vital component of the workforce. In this talk I will discuss how the different aspects of mathematical training prepare students to apply mathematics. I will give some examples of how I, as a number theorist, came to apply mathematics and how this led to several patents.