COLLEGE OF ARTS AND SCIENCES Department of Mathematics and Statistics

Seminars

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23rd Ostrom Lecture: Fun with Congress/Fun with Pascal

2004-01-14

7:30 p.m. CUE 202

Gilbert Strang

Abstract: This lecture will address two separate topics --- the first came from working with the applied math society SIAM. I was lucky to have two opportunities to explain to committees of Congress why mathematics is important to our nation. The testimony was short! I will build on those experiences to discuss the process of research funding (especially at the National Science Foundation) and how we can try to play a part in shaping the decisions. The second part, which will appear in the March 2004 issue of the American Mathematical Monthly, is joint work with Alan Edelman at MIT (and with Pascal). They had all the ideas. Put the famous Pascal triangle into a matrix. It could go into a lower triangular L or its transpose LT or a symmetric matrix S: The amazing thing is that L times LT equals S. There are several proofs (using those binomial numbers in different ways). It follows that S has determinant 1. The matrices have other unexpected properties that give beautiful examples in teaching linear algebra