Author Archives: Beth Malmskog

Awkward Photos of Amazing Talks

have been to many great talks the Joint Meetings so far. I wanted to share a few of my favorites with you here, but the photos I took are, well, awkward. Luckily the AMS has real photographers to capture the live visual spirit of these talks better than I could. But, in the spirit of the vast majority of JMM talk photos, here is my offering of terrible photos of great talks. I have foregone even cropping these (so you can truly imagine yourself in the audience).

William Cook’s talk “Information, computation, optimization: Connecting the dots in the traveling salesman problem”.

Let’s start with William Cook’s MAA Invited Lecture. Cook’s talk, about solving the TSP and related problems, was a wonder of computation, theory, history, and beautiful visualizations. Among many other achievements, he and his team have managed to compute the optimal pub-crawl route to visit all of the pubs in the UK. This was the first time I’d heard of Julia Robinson’s work on the related “assignment problem,” and Cook’s explanation of how the TSP can be tackled with linear programming was very illuminating and clear.

James Tanton’s “HOW MANY DEGREES ARE IN A MARTIAN CIRCLE? And other human (and non-human) questions one should ask about everyday mathematics”.

James Tanton gave Friday’s MAA Invited Lecture for Students, from which I learned SO many surprising things.  From the origin of the name of the sine function to finger multiplication, I wondered how I had never known this, and how someone was able to make me laugh so much while teaching me.  I had run into Tanton’s work while developing math circle problems, but this was the first time I had seen his talk in person.  I will not miss a chance to see him speak again.

Tadashi Tokieda’s talk, “Toy Models”.

Tadashi Tokieda’s MAA Invited Address was possibly the most fun and wonder-filled math talk I have ever seen.  He illustrated surprising physical and mathematical phenomena with simple toys.  His way of speaking and joking with the audience as he explains and illustrates is extremely charming. I wish that basically every scientist I know could have been there.

Moon Duchin’s “Political Geometry: Voting Districts, ‘Compactness’, and Ideas about Fairness”.

The MAA-AMS-SIAM Gerald and Judith Porter Public Lecture is sort of a grand finale to the big JMM lectures, and this one was a perfect conclusion. Or beginning, really—Moon Duchin’s lecture on using mathematics to describe and potentially fight gerrymandering was inspiring.  Perhaps even, as an audience member said during the Q&A period, “historic”.  Duchin revealed how both simple and sophisticated mathematics have essential roles in preserving/resurrecting American democracy. And she has plans for how we can all get involved!  Sign me up!

Asking around: what we’re up to at JMM

Colorado College students Hanbo Shao and Lyujiangyang Yu outside William Cook’s talk “Information, computation, and optimization: Connecting the dots on the Traveling Salesman Problem”. They enjoyed the talk: “It gave me a new angle on the traveling salesman problem; I didn’t know it could be solved with linear programming.” Next up, they were headed to Jill Pipher’s “Nonsmooth boundary problems” (this year’s Noether Lecture) or maybe to the Budapest Semesters in Mathematics reunion.

Michelle Manes and Aly Deines.  Michelle said “The Gibbs Lecture was the bomb.”  Aly concurred, adding that last night’s AWM reception was also amazing, and that William Cook’s traveling salesman lecture was really fun.  Next up, they were headed to the Noether lecture.

Heidi Goodson is enjoying interviews, great tacos (she recommends Salud!), and free coffee towards the back of the exhibit hall.

The view from the hallway, looking into Jo Boaler’s standing-room-only talk, “Changing mathematical relationships and mindsets: how all students can succeed in mathematics learning”. Reportedly, this talk was awesome.

Abe Mantell at the email center near registration on the ground floor of the San Diego Convention Center. Fresh from two simultaneous (!) committee meetings, Abe has also (?) been enjoying the view of Coronado Island and the MAA session on Math and Sports. He is also hoping to make it over to the MAA session on Math Circle Topics with Visual or Kinesthetic Components.

Guess the next term in this sequence? Dana Mackenzie is working hard in the press room, as Mike Breen looks on.  Dana is excited to see Judea Pearl (creator of Bayesian networks and the belief propagation algorithm) receive the 2018 Ulm Grenander prize.  Judea and Dana’s “The Book of Why: The New Science of Cause and Effect” comes out in May of 2018.

Carla Cotwright-Williams is excited “to use my math to help shape policy”.  She’s going home tomorrow to spend a week relaxing and getting ready to start her new position as a data scientist with the Department of Defense.

sarah-marie belcastro and Tom Hull are excited about SO many things at the JMM this year—sarah-marie has at compiled least 10 pages of activities for the meeting. They are both thrilled with the number of great panels and sessions devoted to inclusivity and equity in mathematics. “People are using almost new paradigms to think about this—new to me anyway, and I find it really exciting,“ Tom says.

Farhad Jafari and Greg Lyng are at the meeting interviewing job candidates and hosting a booth at the Grad School fair. “All prospective grad students should apply to the University of Wyoming,” Farhad says. Greg also especially enjoyed Edriss Titi’s address, “The Navier-Stokes, Euler, and related equations”

Wednesday: Off to the Races

The math fun frenzy starts off with a short lull, waiting to pick up a packet at the registration desk, lower level in the B area of the San Diego Convention Center.

The JMM can seem like a race—running from meeting to talk to math friend to math friend, trying to get in as much math, inspiration, and hanging out as possible in four days. I always remind myself to chill out and not overschedule, but it’s hard to hang back when I see so many things that I want to do.

Some years, I have spent a truly excessive amount of time poring over the printed program and using unintelligible (even to me) shorthand to write down things that look interesting. I would then have to look up where they were and then get lost and miss the talks I wanted to see. No longer! This year I am having great success using the JMM 2018 app, which I think is better this year than it was even last year. It has a schedule maker which syncs with my Google calendar, and this great “Map It” feature that shows me where in the convention center each talk is.

Here are some of the things that are on my schedule today:

Talithia Williams’ talk, “Mathematics for the Masses”, 9-9:50 AM in room 8, upper level of the San Diego Convention Center

Abstract: In recent months, we’ve witnessed Americans grapple with the significance of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) through events ranging from the Paris Agreement to the nationwide March for Science, where people marched to defend the role of science in society. In the wake of a renewed excitement for STEM, I’m thrilled to be joining the Public Broadcasting System (PBS) family as one of the hosts of a new NOVA series called NOVA Wonders premiering this spring. NOVA is the most-watched primetime science series on television, reaching an average of five million viewers weekly. NOVA Wonders is a six-part series that will journey to the frontiers of science, where researchers are tackling some of the most intriguing questions about life and the cosmos. My goal in hosting the show is to open individuals to the power of mathematics and data to pursue answers to questions in a clear and purposeful way. During this talk, I plan to share with you an early clip from NOVA Wonders and discuss ways that we can take our mathematics to the masses and share techniques that have been successful in my mathematical environment. We all have a responsibility to inspire a new generation in STEM and nurture the dreams of future mathematical leaders.

Gunnar Carlsson’s talk, “Topological Modeling of Complex Data”, 11:10 AM-12 PM in room 6AB, upper level of the San Diego Convention Center

Abstract: 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.

Association for Women in Mathematics Panel “Using Mathematics in Activism”, organized by Michelle Manes, 2:15– 3:40 PM in room 1, upper level of the San Diego Convention Center.

Abstract: There is a romantic notion that mathematics is somehow so pure that it is separate from the “real world” and untouched by it. However, mathematicians live in the world and are affected by it, and that in turn affects their work. Many mathematicians tackle problems and issues in their communities, in the country, and in the world. Activism can mean many things: engaging with the general public through social media or through traditional media via op ed pieces and letters to the editor; outreach with marginalized populations; advocacy work in professional organizations; and even mathematical research in the context of social and political justice. Our panelists will share their experiences as activist mathematicians and they will help lead a conversation about what we can each do to effect change around issues we care about. This session is open to all JMM attendees. Panelists include Federico Ardila, San Francisco State University, Piper Harron, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Lily Khadjavi, Loyola Marymount University, Beth Malmskog, Colorado College, Karen Saxe, American Mathematical Society and other panelists to be announced.

MAA-JCW-NAM-AWM Panel, “Implicit Bias and Its Effects in Mathematics” organized by Semra Kilic-Bahi, Colby-Sawyer College, Maura Mast, Fordham College at Rose Hill, Naomi Cameron, Lewis & Clark College, Andrew Cahoon, Colby-Sawyer College and Charles Doering, 4:15–5:35 PM in room 2 upper level of the San Diego Convention Center.

Abstract: Implicit bias occurs when someone explicitly rejects stereotypes and prejudices, but unconsciously holds negative (mostly) associations. People are not hiding their prejudices, but rather, they just do not know they have these unconscious feelings or thoughts that affect their decision-making and behavior. Social scientists are identifying implicit biases as one of the most pervasive barriers to equal opportunities for minorities and women in today’s society. This panel discussion addresses how implicit bias might manifest and affect our classrooms, departments, and campuses in terms of academic and scholarly opportunities and evaluations. Panelists are Ron Buckmire, National Science Foundation, Jenna P. Carpenter, Campbell University, Lynn Garrioch, Colby-Sawyer College, Joanna Kania-Bartoszynska, National Science Foundation and Francis Edward Su, Harvey Mudd College.

Well, I’m off to the first talk!  Hope everyone has a great day at the meeting—stop and let me know how it is going if you see me around.