Schedule of Talks for the 2023-2024 Academic Year
Date: Wednesday, November 1, 2023
Speaker: Prof. Maria Zack
Department of Mathematical, Information \& Computer Sciences
Point Loma Nazarene University
Email: MariaZack AT pointloma DOT edu
Title: Blaise Pascal's Cycloidial Contest
Abstract: n June of 1658, using the pseudonym of Amos Dettonville, Pascal issued a challenge offering 40 pistoles to the first person who could solve a collection of six problems about the standard cycloid. The problems were:
  1. To find the area under the cycloid
  2. To find the center of gravity of the cycloid
  3. To find the volume of the two solids found by rotating the cycloid around both the base and the axis
  4. To find the center of gravity of the two solids described in (3)
The contestants had a few short months to complete their work and submit their solutions by October 1, 1658 to the mathematician Pierre de Carcavi. This talk will discuss the web of people connected to this contest, some of their solutions, and Pascal's own writings including an accusation of plagiarism!
Date: Wednesday, March 6, 2024
Speaker: Prof. Ximena Catepillán
Mathematics Department
Millersville University
Email: Ximena DOT Catepillan AT millersville DOT edu
Title: Maya Numbers and Calendrical Computations
Abstract: Mesoamerican calendars were many and complex. There have been a good number of studies done to decipher them. By the arrival of Hernan Cortes in 1519 in what is current day Mexico, there were 21 calendars in use while 4 of them were extinct. Using astronomical observations, the Maya developed an elaborate system of calendars, among them the Tzolkin Calendar, the Haab Calendar, the Round Calendar (a combination of the first two) and the Long Count. Which operations did the Maya use to perform their calendrical computations? While they used a vigesimal system to write the numbers, this system was never used in connection with days. No inscriptions use vigesimal numbers but rather quasi-vigesimal (chronological) numbers. In spoken numbers, a mix of decimal and vigesimal notation appears. Multiplication by 20 was the most common computation. They also needed to divide to do some of the calendar conversions. I'll illustrate calendrical computation within and among calendars and conversion examples in which division is needed. This technique is quite simple using just a pencil and paper.
Date: Wednesday, April 17, 2024
Speaker: Prof. Larry D'Antonio
School of Theoretical and Applied Science
Ramapo College
Email: ldant AT ramapo DOT edu
Title: Edmond Halley, not just comets, but so much more
Abstract: In this talk, we will look at the remarkable life and work of Edmond Halley (1656 - 1742). Most noted for his prediction of the return of Halley's Comet, he showed an unrivaled diversity of intellectual interests. He made major discoveries in mathematics, astronomy, geomagnetism, meteorology, oceanography, and actuarial science. In addition, he was a sea captain, an Oxford professor, a diplomat, the Astronomer Royal, and the Secretary of the Royal Society of London. In this talk, we will give an overview of his career.