Texas Tech University

Margaret Wertheim: "How to Play Mathematics"

On March 20th, 2018, guest speaker Margaret Wertheim presented the multidisciplinary talk "How to Play Mathematics" at the Museum of Texas Tech University. What does it mean to know mathematics? Usually we associate math with equations and think of it as the epitome of symbolic reasoning. Yet all around us simple organisms and objects are performing extraordinary pieces of mathematics. Sea slugs and corals realize in their anatomies hyperbolic geometry, a form that human mathematicians spent hundreds of years trying to prove impossible. Swooping towards a prey, a peregrine falcon executes a logarithmic spiral. Bouncing about a room, sounds waves enact the complexity of a Fourier Transform. Meanwhile African artisans discovered fractals centuries before European mathematicians and have long incorporated them into designs of cloth, pottery and village architecture. Islamic mosaicists, masters of geometrical construction, discovered aperiodic tilings more than 500 years before modern mathematicians. Margaret Wertheim argues that mathematics isn't just something we do with our minds, it can also be engaged with through process of material exploration and play.