Fireflies

 

 

In my next lifetime, I want to be a math geek. In particular, one like Steven Strogatz, who has managed to make a career out of studying events like this one:

Every night along the tidal rivers of Malaysia, thousands of male fireflies congregate in the mangrove trees and flash on and off in silent, hypnotic unison.  This display extends for miles along the river and occurs spontaneously; it does not require any leader or cue from the environment.

Wow. Sounds like something worth witnessing. And attempting to understand. Strogatz focuses on “feats of synchronization [that] occur throughout the natural world”… 

… whenever large groups of self-sustained oscillators interact.  This lecture will provide an introduction to the Kuramoto model, the simplest mathematical model of collective synchronization.  Its analysis has fascinated theorists for the past 35 years, and involves a beautiful interplay of ideas from nonlinear dynamics, statistical physics, and fluid mechanics.

But, since I am so very far from being Steven Strogatz, I would at least like to hear him speak about such things, which he will be doing, on September 16th at Bronfman Auditorium. If I could, I would be there. To me, it sounds like getting one tiny step closer to understanding magic.

The lecture on September 15th sounds wonderful as well. The focus of that one is “of his extraordinary connection with his high school calculus teacher”.

It’s about the transformation that takes place in a student’s heart, as he and his teacher reverse roles, as they age, as they are buffeted by life itself.  It is intended for a general audience, and especially anyone whose life has been changed by a mentor.  (It also includes some nifty calculus problems.)

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