JMM 2018

Invited Speakers - A Closer Look

picture of Gunnar CarlssonAMS-MAA Invited Address

Topological Modeling of Complex Data

Wednesday, January 10, 2018, 11:10 a.m.- 12:00 p.m. Ballroom 6AB, 3rd Level, San Diego Convention Center

Gunnar Carlsson, Stanford University

One of the fundamental problems faced by science and industry is that of making sense of large and complex data sets. To approach this problem, we need new organizing principles and modeling methodologies. One such approach is through topology, the mathematical study of shape. The shape of the data, suitably defined, is an important component of exploratory data analysis.  In this talk, we will discuss the topological  approach, with numerous examples, and consider some questions about how it will develop as mathematics. 

picture of Alissa CransMAA Invited Address

Quintessential Quandle Queries

Wednesday, January 10, 2018, 2:15 p.m.- 3:05 p.m. Ballroom 6AB, 3rd Level, San Diego Convention Center

Alissa Crans, Loyola Marymount University

Motivated by questions arising in starkly different contexts, quandles have been discovered and rediscovered over the past century.  The axioms defining a quandle, an analogue of a group, simultaneously encode the three Reidemeister moves from knot theory and capture the essential properties of conjugation in a group.  Thus, on the one hand, quandles are a fruitful source of applications to knots and knotted surfaces; in particular, they provide a complete invariant of knots.  On the other, they inspire independent interest as algebraic structures; for instance, the set of homomorphisms from one quandle to another admits a natural quandle structure in a large class of cases.  We will illustrate the history of this theory through numerous examples and survey recent developments.

picture of Bill CookMAA Invited Address

Information, Computation, Optimization: Connecting the dots in the Traveling Salesman Problem

Thursday, January 11, 2018, 9:00 a.m.- 9:50 a.m. Ballroom 6AB, 3rd Level, San Diego Convention Center

William Cook, University of Waterloo

Few math models scream impossible as loudly as the traveling salesman problem. Given $n$ cities, the TSP asks for the shortest route to take you to all of them. Easy to state, but if ${\cal P} \neq {\cal NP}$ then no solution method can have good asymptotic performance as $n$ goes off to infinity. The popular interpretation is that we simply cannot solve realistic examples. But this skips over nearly 70 years of intense mathematical study. Indeed, in 1949 Julia Robinson described the TSP challenge in practical terms: ``Since there are only a finite number of paths to consider, the problem consists in finding a method for picking out the optimal path when $n$ is moderately large, say $n = 50$." She went on to propose a linear programming attack that was adopted by her RAND colleagues Dantzig, Fulkerson, and Johnson several years later.                

Following in the footsteps of these giants, we use linear programming to show that a certain tour of 49,603 historic sites in the US is shortest possible, measuring distance with point-to-point walking routes obtained from Google Maps. We highlight aspects of the modern study of polyhedral combinatorics and discrete optimization that make the computation feasible. This is joint work with Daniel Espinoza, Marcos Goycoolea, and Keld Helsgaun.

picture of Jo BoalerMAA Project NExT Lecture on Teaching and Learning

Changing Mathematical Relationships and Mindsets: How All Students Can Succeed in Mathematics Learning

Thursday, January 11, 2018, 11:00 a.m.- Noon Ballroom 6AB, 3rd Level, San Diego Convention Center

Jo Boaler, Stanford University

This talk and discussion will consider how important new brain science can change students’ ideas and approaches to mathematics, change students’ mathematics pathways dramatically, and promote equity in mathematics classrooms. We will hear about research in neuroscience and education, watch classroom videos and consider mathematics transformations for school and college students.


picture of Federico ArdilaAMS Invited Address

Algebraic Structures on Polytopes

Thursday, January 11, 2018, 2:15 p.m. - 3:05 p.m. Ballroom 6AB, 3rd Level, San Diego Convention Center

Federico Ardila, San Francisco State University

Generalized permutahedra are a beautiful family of polytopes with a rich combinatorial structure and strong connections to optimization. We study their algebraic structure: we prove they are the universal family of polyhedra with a certain ``Hopf monoid" structure. This construction provides a unifying framework to organize and study many combinatorial families: 1. It uniformly answers open questions and recovers known results about graphs, posets, matroids, hypergraphs, and simplicial complexes. 2. It reveals that three combinatorial reciprocity theorems of Stanley and Billera--Jia--Reiner on graphs, posets, and matroids are really the same theorem. 3. It shows that permutahedra and associahedra ``know" how to compute the multiplicative and compositional inverses of power series. The talk will be accessible to undergraduates and will not assume previous knowledge of these topics.

picture of Ruth CharneyAMS Invited Address

Searching for Hyperbolicity

Thursday, January 11, 2018, 3:20 p.m. - 4:10 p.m. Ballroom 6AB, 3rd Level, San Diego Convention Center

Ruth Charney, Brandeis University

While groups are defined as algebraic objects, they can also be viewed as symmetries of geometric objects. This viewpoint gives rise to powerful tools for studying infinite groups. The work of Max Dehn in the early 20th century on groups acting on the hyperbolic plane was an early indication of this phenomenon. In the 1980's, Dehn's ideas were vastly generalized by Mikhail Gromov to a large class of groups, now known as hyperbolic groups. In recent years there has been an effort to push these ideas even further. If a group fails to be hyperbolic, might it still display some hyperbolic behavior? Might some of the techniques used in hyperbolic geometry still apply? The talk will begin with an introduction to some basic ideas in geometric group theory and Gromov's notion of hyperbolicity, and conclude with a discussion of recent work on finding and encoding hyperbolic behavior in more general groups.

picture of Tadashi TokiedaMAA Invited Address

Toy Models

Friday, January 12, 2018, 9:00 a.m.- 9:50 a.m. Ballroom 6AB, 3rd Level, San Diego Convention Center

Tadashi Tokieda, Stanford University

Would you like to come see some toys? `Toy' here has a special sense: an object from daily life which can be found or made in minutes, yet which, if played with imaginatively, reveal behaviors that intrigue scientists for weeks.  We will explore table-top demos of several such toys, and extract a mathematical story. Some of the toys will be classical but revisited, others will be original, and all will be surprising to mathematicians/physicists and amusing to everyone else.


picture of James TantonMAA Lecture for Students

HOW MANY DEGREES ARE IN A MARTIAN CIRCLE? And Other Human - and Nonhuman - Questions One Should Ask About Everyday Mathematics

Friday, January 12, 2018, 1:00 p.m.- 1:50 p.m. Ballroom 6AB, 3rd Level, San Diego Convention Center

James Tanton, MAA Mathematician at Large

Who chose the number 360 for the count of degrees in a circle? Why that number? And why do mathematicians not like that number for mathematics? Why is the preferred direction of motion in mathematics counterclockwise when the rest of world naturally chooses clockwise?  Why are fingers and single digit numbers both called digits? Why do we humans like the numbers 10, 12, 20, and 60 particularly so?  Why are logarithms so confusing? Why is base e the “natural” logarithm to use? What happened to the vinculum? (Bring back the vinculum, I say!) Why did human circle-ometry become trigonometry? Let's spend a session together exploring tidbits from the human - and nonhuman - development of mathematics. 

picture of Maria KlaweMAA Invited Address

Transforming Learning: Building Confidence and Community to Engage Students with Rigor

Saturday, January 13, 2018, 10:05 a.m.- 10:55 a.m. Ballroom 6AB, 3rd Level, San Diego Convention Center

Maria Klawe, Harvey Mudd College

As the first woman and the first mathematician to become president of Harvey Mudd College, I have been delighted to see our departments transform the teaching of rigorous mathematical content in ways that attract and retain female students in mathematics, computer science, engineering and physics. This talk describes the curricular and classroom transformations that have taken place over the last decade and the significant increases in diversity that have occurred as a result. Just in the last three years we have seen graduating classes in computer science, engineering and physics that were more than 50% female. I hope that attendees will leave energized and inspired to experiment in their own departments.

picture of Moon DuchinMAA-AMS-SIAM Gerald and Judith Porter Public Lecture

Political Geometry: Voting Districts, "Compactness," and Ideas About Fairness

Saturday, January 13, 2018, 3:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m. Ballroom 6AB, 3rd Level, San Diego Convention Center

Moon Duchin, Tufts University

The U.S. Constitution calls for a census every ten years, followed by freshly drawn congressional districts to evenly divide up the population of each state.  How the lines are drawn has a profound impact on how the elections turn out, especially with increasingly fine-grained voter data available.  We call a district gerrymandered if the lines are drawn to rig an outcome, whether to dilute the voting power of minorities, to overrepresent one political party, to create safe seats for incumbents, or anything else.  Bizarrely-shaped districts are widely recognized as a red flag for gerrymandering, so a traditional districting principle is that the shapes should be "compact"—since that typically is left undefined, it's hard to enforce or to study.  I will discuss "compactness" from the point of view of metric geometry, and I'll overview opportunities for mathematical interventions and constraints in the highly contested process of electoral redistricting.  To do this requires a rich mix of law, civil rights, geometry, political science, and supercomputing.