A private comprehensive liberal arts college in Salt Lake City, UT, offering undergraduate and graduate degrees in liberal arts and professional programs. Website
Invited Speakers

Invited Speakers


Michael Dorff, Associate Professor and Associate Chair, BYU; Director Center for Undergraduate Research Mathematics (CURM)

"Black-Scholes, the Iron Man suit, and an advisor to the President of the United States"

In Oct 2010, an article, How much math do we really need?, was published in the Washington Post. The author, a mathematician, wrote “Unlike literature, history, politics and music, math has little relevance to everyday life” and “All the mathematics one needs in real life can be learned in early years without much fuss.” Is this true and what does this have to do what Black-Scholes, the Iron Man suit, and an advisor to the President of the United States?


Ivars Peterson, Director of Publications and Communications, Mathematical Association of America

"Pancake Sorting, Prefix Reversals, and DNA Rearrangements" 

The seemingly simple problem of sorting a stack of differently sized pancakes has become a staple of theoretical computer science and led to insights into the evolution of species.  First proposed in The American Mathematical Monthly, the problem attracted the attention of noted mathematicians and computer scientists.  It now plays an important role in the realm of molecular biology for making sense of DNA arrangements. Bibliography.


Kenneth Ross, Professor Emeritus, University of Oregon

"Frequencies of First Digits of Data"

Often data in the real world have the property that the first digit 1 appears about 30% of the time, the first digit 2 appears about 17% of the time, and so on with the first digit 9 appearing about 5% of the time.  This phenomenon is known as Benford's law.  I will provide a simple explanation, suitable for nonmathematicians, of why Benford's law holds for data that has been growing (or shrinking) exponentially over time.  I'll also discuss a related phenomenon that occurs with first digits of numbers in sequences such as powers of 2; squares 1, 4, 9, 16, etc.; cubes 1, 8, 27, 64, etc., and the sequence of factorials {n!}.


Katherine Socha, Director of Education Policy, Math for America

“Sea Battles, Benjamin Franklin's Oil Lamp, and Jellybellies”

In a letter dated December 1, 1762, Benjamin Franklin wrote:
"During our passage to Madeira, the weather being warm, and the cabin
windows constantly open for the benefit of the air, the candles at
night flared and run very much, which was an inconvenience. At Madeira
we got oil to burn, and with a common glass tumbler or beaker, slung
in wire, and suspended to the ceiling of the cabin, and a little wire
hoop for the wick, furnish'd with corks to float on the oil, I made an
Italian lamp, that gave us very good light..."
Observations of real phenomena have led to mathematical modeling of
surface water waves, interfacial waves, and Lagrangian coherent
structures, among other examples. This talk will provide a quick tour
of the mathematics needed to describe idealized versions of the rings
formed by striking a surface of water with a large object (like a
bomb), the oil-water waves observed by Founding Father Benjamin
Franklin on his voyage to Madeira, and the motion of nutrient laden
water being swept into the underbelly of swimming jellyfish.