Posts tagged Mathematics Building
Offbeat math professor Edward Burger
to speak at CU-Boulder March 15
If you despise math and the sight of an equation makes you physically ill, Professor Edward Burger of Baylor University and Williams College may be able to heal you during a talk at the University of Colorado Boulder on Thursday, March 15.
Burger’s talk, titled “Zero to Infinity: Great Moments in the History of Numbers,” will be held at 6 p.m. in the Mathematics Building room 100. The talk is free and open to the public and pizza and refreshments will be served afterward. Burger plans to answer a number of questions in his lecture, including whether humans are the only animals that can count, how the desire to count made it possible for William Shakespeare to write his plays, and whether negative numbers were invented to explain Burger’s own checking account balance.
Burger, who is on the record as saying “no one in their right mind would ever go to a math talk,” is not your run-of-the mill math educator. He has worked as a stand-up comedian, wrote jokes for Jay Leno in the late 1980s, starred in an episode of NBC’s “Science of the Winter Olympics” in 2010 that won him a prestigious Telly Award, and most recently is being featured in “The Science of NHL Hockey” on NBC News.
“The talk is intended as whirlwind tour of the history of numbers and watch them grow from practical tools used by ancient shepherds to practical tools used to drive the digital age,” said Burger, who was named was named Vice-Provost of Strategic Educational Initiatives at Baylor University in 2011. “If you love the humanities, sciences, social sciences, medical science, business, engineering or anything involving human thought, this talk is for you.”
Burger is considered by many to be the nation’s leader in math education. In 2006 Reader’s Digest named him “America’s Best Math Teacher.” In 2010 he was named the winner of the Robert Foster Cherry Award for Great Teaching by Baylor University, an award that carried a $250,000 prize and is believed to be the largest and most prestigious award in higher education teaching in the nation across all disciplines.
In 2010 the Huffington Post named Burger as one of the world’s 100 “Game-Changers,” a list that included “innovators, visionaries, mavericks and leaders who are re-shaping their fields and changing the world.” He also is an associate editor of the American Mathematical Monthly and of Math Horizons Magazine.
In a 2005 Boston Public Library lecture on topology — the study of the properties of geometric figures or solids that remain unchanged during stretching or bending — he demonstrated that it was possible to tie a six-foot rope snugly around his right ankle and then his left ankle, take off his pants, turn them inside out and put them back on without ever cutting the rope. He once had 600 beach balls poured from the balcony of a packed auditorium at Williams College in Williamstown, Mass. onto the heads of audience members to demonstrate a math principle.
Burger’s deep passion for math is founded on the premise that it should be made lively, fun and educational. “The idea is to entertain and enlighten,” he said. “My goal is get people to have fun thinking, have a better feeling about math, and to look at things in a slightly different way.”
Burger is the author of more than 35 research articles, 12 books and 15 video series. He has delivered more than 400 lectures and appeared on more than 40 radio and TV programs, including ABC News Now and National Public Radio. He has been a visiting mathematics professor at CU-Boulder three times.
His upcoming book, “The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking,” offers students, teachers, business people and life-long learners ways of being more creative and innovative. It is being published this summer by Princeton University Press.
The University of Colorado Boulder will host a free public lecture this month illuminating the lessons learned from the April 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion that killed 11 workers and resulted in the largest accidental oil spill in U.S. history.
Called “What Happened at Deepwater Horizon?” the event will be presented Jan. 26 from 6:30 to 9 p.m. in the Mathematics Building auditorium, room 100.
Donald Winter, former secretary of the Navy, professor of engineering practice at the University of Michigan and chair of the National Academies committee that wrote a report on the Deepwater Horizon accident, will be the first of two guest speakers.
The report, issued last month, points to multiple flawed decisions leading to the blowout and explosion, and calls for a new “system safety” approach to anticipating and managing possible dangers at every level of operation.
A second guest speaker will be Paul Hsieh, a research hydrologist with the U.S. Geological Survey who was named 2011 Federal Employee of the Year. Hsieh performed the crucial calculations on pressure that deemed it safe to cap the oil well in mid-July without causing it to rupture from beneath the seabed and result in a bigger disaster.
Two CU-Boulder environmental engineering faculty who have been researching the aftermath of the incident also will present their findings at the event. Fernando Rosario-Ortiz will discuss the environmental fate of dispersants used in the disaster response and Alina Handorean will present information on air quality impacts of the oil spill.
“I was really jarred by this event because it was so preventable,” said event co-organizer Jana Milford, professor and director of the Environmental Engineering Program at CU-Boulder. “By learning more about what happened, I think we can encourage a stronger culture around safety.”
The event is presented by the College of Engineering and Applied Science, the BOLD Center, the Department of Mechanical Engineering and the Environmental Engineering Program.
For more information or to request accommodations for disabilities call 303-492-4774.