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Mathematics & Statistics


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Colloquium Schedule - Fall 2013 – Summer 2014 Abstracts

Wednesday, April 23, 2014.  Math Colloquium.
Prof. Ben Weiss, UMaine Mathematics.
“The card game Set
3:30 – 4:20 pm, 110 Little Hall. (Snacks at 3:15pm.)

SET is a fun pattern matching game involving picture cards with various shapes and colors. We will use the patterns in the game to discuss such mathematical concepts as lines in non-real space, sum-free subsets and other combinatorial and probabilistic constructions.


Friday, April 18, 2014.  Thesis defense. (Advisor: Eisso Atzema)
Amber Hathaway, UMaine Mathematics MA candidate.
“Emmy Noether’s Theorem on Integral Invariants in the Context of the Calculus of Variations”
3:30 – 4:20 pm, 421 Neville Hall.

Stated informally, Emmy Noether’s theorem asserts that if a system has a symmetry property, then one can obtain a corresponding conservation law for the system.  For example, the Lagrangian of a ball thrown into the air, that is, the difference between the ball’s kinetic and potential energies, will be the same regardless of the time at which the ball is tossed into the air.  Noether’s theorem assures that a conservation law for this system exists and provides the means to find it.  In this talk, a brief biographical sketch of Emmy Noether will be given, followed by an overview of the history of the calculus of variations and of general relativity to provide context for Noether’s theorem.  A formal statement and proof of Noether’s theorem will be given, as will an example to demonstrate her theorem.


Wednesday, April 16, 2014.  Pizza Pi.
Dr. Eisso Atzema, UMaine Mathematics 
“Classifying Quadrilaterals”
3:30 – 4:20 pm, Hill Auditorium, 165 Barrows Hall (ESRB). (Snacks at 3:15 pm.)

In the definitions of Book 1 of Euclid’s Elements one can find a rudimentary classification of the quadrilaterals. By and large, the same classification is still taught today. Over time, however, various changes from Euclid became commonplace and at least one new type of quadrilateral was introduced. In this presentation, we will look at the history of the classification of quadrilaterals from the mid-16th century through the 19th century.  In close connection with this, we will also have a look at the history of the notion of the general or “irregular” quadrilateral, i.e. the class of quadrilaterals generally not included in the usual classifications of the quadrilateral.

This talk will be accessible to anyone who has completed high school mathematics.


Wednesday, April 9, 2014.  Math Colloquium.
Prof. Justin Sukiennik, Colby College
“From Transcendental Numbers to Diophantine Approximation”
3:30 – 4:20 pm, Hill Auditorium, 165 Barrows Hall (ESRB). (Snacks at 3:15 pm.)

Before mathematicians knew about countability, Joseph Liouville proved that transcendental numbers existed in 1844.  He used an approximation method that was later refined by several mathematicians whose research led to a new field called Diophantine approximation.  This field eventually led to discoveries about Diophantine equations.  In 1955, Klaus Roth made the final best possible refinement.   In this talk, we will investigate Liouville’s initial result, examine the existence of transcendental numbers, and the progress and history made to extract the best possible result.


Wednesday, April 2, 2014.  Math Colloquium.
Shawn Firouzian, UMaine Mathematics MA student
“Knowledge for Teaching Applied Problems in Calculus”
3:30 – 4:20 pm, 110 Little Hall. (Snacks at 3:15 pm.)

Previous studies have indicated that effective mathematics teaching relies on teachers’ knowledge of both students’ thinking and mathematical content. Very little is known about the knowledge of science that teachers use when teaching application problems in mathematics. I will present information about mathematicians teaching applied derivative problems. We will look at some math problems and consider the kind of knowledge teachers draw on when teaching applied concepts in calculus.


Wednesday, March 26, 2014.  Math Colloquium.
Prof. Andrew Knightly, UMaine Mathematics
“Representation theory and the trace formula”
3:30 – 4:20 pm, 421 Neville Hall. (Snacks at 3:15 pm in 419 Neville.)

In the summer of 2013, Carl Ragsdale received research support from the math department for writing a paper based on his UMaine MA thesis. His main result is an explicit calculation of matrix coefficients of a special type of irreducible representation of the group of two-by-two invertible matrices over the p-adic numbers. In this talk I will briefly motivate the problem as coming from a nonabelian analog of Fourier theory. Then I will explain, in the much simpler context of finite groups, what representations are, and how their matrix coefficients can be used. This will involve a rudimentary version of the trace formula (which generalizes Poisson summation). This talk should be accessible to those familiar with basic group theory and linear algebra.


Wednesday, March 19, 2014.  Math Colloquium.
Prof. Neil Comins, UMaine Physics & Astronomy
“So You Think You Know Tides”
3:30 – 4:20 pm, Hill Auditorium, 165 Barrows Hall (ESRB). (Snacks at 3:15 pm.)

Most people who learn about tides are taught that they are due to the difference in the gravitational force from the Moon across the Earth: The oceans on the side of the Earth closest to the Moon are pulled most by it; hence they are pulled upward to create a high tide under the Moon.  The oceans on the side of the Earth farthest from the Moon feel less gravitational attraction from it than does the Earth beneath them, so these oceans are “left behind,” meaning they pull away from the Earth opposite the direction of the Moon, thereby creating a second high tide on the opposite side of the
Earth from the first high tide.
In this talk, using just algebra, I will explain how tides really work.


Wednesday, February 26, 2014.  Math Colloquium.
Prof. Dawn Nelson, Bates College Mathematics
“Identification Numbers and the Mathematics behind Them”
4:45 – 5:40 pm, Hill Auditorium, 165 Barrows Hall (ESRB). (Snacks at 4:30 pm.)

In today’s digital age books, food, financial transactions, and even people are identified by numbers. Major problems can result if these numbers are transmitted or stored incorrectly: Imagine your hard earned paycheck being deposited in someone else’s bank account. Many techniques have been designed to identify errors in transmission and record keeping. In this talk we will discuss several check digit schemes, their strengths, their weaknesses, and the mathematics behind them. We will start with schemes based on modular arithmetic used for UPCs and credit card numbers. We will conclude with a scheme used by the German Bundesbank that is based on permutations and dihedral groups.


Wednesday, February 19, 2014.  Pizza Pi Seminar.
Kevin Roberge, UMaine Mathematics Instructor
“Puzzling Penrose Pathologies”
3:30 – 4:20 pm, Hill Auditorium, 165 Barrows Hall (ESRB). (Pizza at 3:15 pm.)

In the spirit of my everyday erratic investigations this presentation combines Turing machines, Penrose tilings, cantor sets and noncommutative geometry in a gluttonous indulgence of mathematical variety.

The first half of the talk will be accessible to a wide audience, as it will feature historical background, lots of neat images, and basic computations that require nothing beyond high school mathematics. Thus the first half will be * 1 star (high school level). The second half, in the tradition of academic colloquia, will feature an abrupt spike in abstraction and become ***** 5 star (grad level).


Wednesday, February 12, 2014.  Mathematics Colloquium.
Seth Albert, UMaine Math graduating senior
“The Renaissance Actuary”
3:30 – 4:20 pm, Hill Auditorium, 165 Barrows Hall (ESRB). (Snacks at 3:15 pm.)

The actuarial career used to be the best-kept secret for Math majors. Now, more is required of actuaries and of STEM majors in every career. From my summer experience at Unum to the success of Nate Silver’s 538 blog, from Moneyball to teaching Calculus, this talk will describe what is needed beyond the technical expertise in today’s world.


Wednesday, January 29, 2014.  Mathematics Colloquium.
Prof. Catherine Buell, Bates College Mathematics
“Involutions and Fixing the World: Symmetric Spaces”
3:30 – 4:20 pm, Hill Auditorium, 165 Barrows Hall (ESRB). (Snacks at 3:15 pm.)

Symmetric spaces are studied in both mathematics (through algebraic and geometric theory) and physics (in the study of integrable systems and quantum theory as well as applications to carbon nanotubes). These spaces have unique structure determined by an involution (an order-two automorphism) on a group. During the talk the audience will be introduced to involutions and fixed points, discover various symmetries in the plane and in matrix groups, and learn current results and open questions in the field.


Wednesday, January 22, 2014.  Pizza Pi Seminar.
Jon Janelle, UMaine MST student
Modeling a Zombie Outbreak Using Systems of Ordinary Differential Equations
3:30 – 4:20 pm, Hill Auditorium, 165 Barrows Hall (ESRB). (Pizza at 3:15 pm.)

Zombies, the flesh-eating undead terrors with which we are all familiar, have become a fixture in contemporary pop culture. According to MSNBC economics columnist Jon Ogg, zombie-related movies, TV shows, books, video games, and a host of other goods generated an estimated $5.74 billion in economic activity in 2011. On UMaine’s campus, and campuses around the country, you may have noticed Humans vs. Zombies (HvZ), a game of moderated tag, being played. Even the CDC’s Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response has gotten involved through its creation of a Zombie Preparedness plan.

In a 2009 paper by Munz, Hudea, Imad, and Smith, several mathematical models for the spread of a zombie infection are developed. We will briefly discuss methods for graphically representing the relationships in an outbreak model, and then the fundamentals and common assumptions of ordinary differential equation (ODE) predator-prey systems will be introduced. The behaviors of a simple model will be explored using the Sage mathematical modeling software. Audience members will then be invited to develop expanded systems of ODEs in small groups to more accurately represent their favorite varieties of zombies. Finally, practical limitations of the systems developed and applications to other disciplines will be discussed.


Wednesday, December 11, 2013.  Pizza Pi Seminar.
Prof. Bill Halteman, UMaine Mathematics
3:30 – 4:20 pm, Hill Auditorium, 165 Barrows Hall (ESRB). (Pizza at 3:15 pm.)

Between 75% and 80% of students at Harvard are first-borns.  Do first-born children work harder academically, and so end up overrepresented at top universities?  So claims noted philosopher Michael Sandel.  But maybe his statistical reasoning is faulty and there is a more plausible explanation that we can find using some simple statistical tools.


Wednesday, December 4th, 2013.  Mathematics Graduate Seminar.
Derrick Cox, UMaine Mathematics MA student
“The Metric Space Technique: the Means by which to Compare”
3:30 – 4:20 pm, Hill Auditorium, Barrows Hall (ESRB). (Snacks at 3:15 pm.)

The mathematical generalization of the notion of distance is a metric. A metric space is a set of elements together with a metric for measuring distance. Metrics generalize our ability to quantify similarities and differences between elements of a metric space. For example, the real plane together with the Euclidean distance is a metric space. Other metrics can be defined on the plane as well.

The Metric Space Technique is a mathematical formalism used to quantitatively compare the complex information in images. Instead of performing a pixel-by-pixel comparison between any two images, this method compares the images’ one dimensional “output functions”, which characterize specific morphological aspects in the images. From this, we can quantify similarities and differences between images. Hence, mathematical tools (like the Metric Space Technique) become an alternative to visual investigation and can provide quantitative and objective morphological analysis of images under study by calculating the metric distance between the imagesí output functions.

This talk should be accessible to undergraduates.


Wednesday, November 20th, 2013.  Mathematics Graduate Seminar.
Sophie Potozcak, UMaine Mathematics MA student
“Identification and Classification of Compact Surfaces”
3:30 – 4:20 pm, Hill Auditorium, Barrows Hall (ESRB). (Snacks at 3:15 pm.)

We will introduce the concept of compact surfaces. The sphere, the torus, and the Klein bottle are examples. We will discuss how to construct compact surfaces by gluing pairs of edges together in polygons and we will see that every compact surface can be represented in this way. Then we will prove a result that identifies all of the possible compact surfaces up to homeomorphism and we will introduce a result that distinguishes the possible compact surfaces using fundamental groups.


Thursday, November 14 and Thursday, November 21, 2013.  Mathematics Event.
Prof. Robert Franzosa, UMaine Mathematics
“Marston Morse, Morse Theory, and More”
3:30 – 4:20 pm, 100 Neville Hall.

A two meeting-event with:

Marston Morse is one of Maine’s most celebrated mathematicians. He was born in Waterville, Maine in 1892. He received his bachelor’s degree from Colby College in 1914, his master’s degree in 1915 from Harvard University, and his Ph.D. in 1917 from Harvard University. He taught at Harvard, Brown, and Cornell Universities before accepting a position in 1935 at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton where he remained until his retirement in 1962. His primary mathematical work was in global analysis and the calculus of variations. One of his accomplishments (that subsequently became known as Morse Theory) involved using local information about critical points of functions on a domain to infer global information about the structure of the domain.

In the 1960s through the 1980s Charles Conley at the University of Wisconsin developed generalizations of Morse Theory that subsequently became known as the Conley Index Theory. Bob Franzosa worked under Charles Conley for his Ph.D. and has, over the years, contributed to the development of the Conley Index theory. Current math department visitor Ewerton Vieria, a graduate student from Universidade Estadual de Campinas in Brazil, is working on aspects of the Conley Index Theory as part of  his Ph. D. research.

On Thursday November 14, 3:30-4:20, 100 Neville Hall, we will watch the 45-minute first part of Pits, Peaks, and Passes. (Popcorn will be served!!)

On Thursday November 21, 3:30-4:20, 100 Neville Hall, Bob Franzosa will give a brief presentation about Morse Theory and the Conley Index Theory. That will be followed by the 25 minute second part of Pits, Peaks, and Passes.


Wednesday, November 13, 2013.  Mathematics Colloquium.
Prof. John Thompson, UMaine Physics & Astronomy
“Investigating student understanding and application of mathematics needed in physics: Integration and the Fundamental Theorem of Calculus.”
3:30 – 4:20 pm, Hill Auditorium, 165 Barrows Hall (ESRB). (Snacks at 3:15 pm.)

Learning physics concepts often requires the ability to interpret and manipulate the underlying mathematical representations (e.g., equations, graphs, and diagrams). Moreover, physics students are expected to be able to apply mathematics concepts to find connections between various properties of a physical quantity (function), such as the rate of change (derivative) and the accumulation (definite integral). Results from our ongoing research into student understanding of thermal physics concepts have led us to investigate how students think about and use prerequisite, relevant mathematics, especially calculus, to solve physics problems.

We have developed or adapted questions related to the Fundamental Theorem of Calculus (FTC), specifically with graphical representations that are relevant in physics contexts, and often with parallel versions in both mathematics and physics. Written questions were administered initially; follow-up individual interviews were conducted to probe the depth of the written responses. Our findings are consistent with much of the relevant literature in mathematics education; we also have identified new difficulties and reasoning in students’ responses to the given FTC problems. In-depth analysis of the interview data suggests that students often fail to make meaningful connections between individual elements of the FTC while solving these problems.


Wednesday, November 6, 2013.  Pizza Pi Seminar.
Dr. Aitbala Sargent, UMaine Mathematics
“Mathematical models of ice sheet dynamics and their verification.”
3:30 – 4:20 pm, Hill Auditorium, 165 Barrows Hall (ESRB). (Pizza at 3:15 pm.)

How do ice sheets move?  What are the difficulties in modeling their dynamics?  Do the modelers have adequate mathematical models to describe their dynamics?  How are the models verified? This talk will give a short introduction to mathematical modeling of ice sheet dynamics and will try to answer the above questions.


Friday, November 1, 2013.  Mathematics Colloquium.
Prof. Ben Adcock, Purdue University
“Compressed sensing over the continuum”
3:30 – 4:30 pm, 100 Neville Hall.

Due to time, cost or other constraints, many problems one faces in science and engineering require the reconstruction of an object – an image or signal, for example – from a seemingly highly incomplete set of data.  Compressed sensing is a new field of research that seeks to exploit the inherent structure of real-life objects – specifically, their sparsity – to allow for recovery from such datasets.  Since its introduction a decade ago, compressed sensing has become an intense area of research in applied mathematics, engineering and computer science.  However, the majority of the theory and techniques of compressed sensing are based on finite-dimensional, digital models.  On the other hand, many, if not most, of the problems one encounters in applications are analog, or infinite-dimensional.

In this talk, I will present a theory and set of techniques for compressed sensing over the continuum.  I shall first motivate the need for this new approach by showing how existing finite-dimensional techniques fail for simple problems, due to mismatch between the data and the model.  Next I will argue that any theory in infinite dimensions requires new assumptions, which generalize the standard principles of compressed sensing (sparsity and random sampling with incoherent bases).  Using these, I will then develop the new theory and techniques.  Finally, I will show how this new approach allows for near-optimal recovery in a number of important settings.


Wednesday, October 23, 2013.  Mathematics Colloquium.
Prof. David Kung, St. Mary’s College of Maryland
“Harmonious Equations: A Mathematical Exploration of Music”
3:45 – 5:00 pm, Hill Auditorium, Barrows Hall (ESRB). (Snacks at 3:15 pm.)

Mathematics and music seem to come from different spheres (arts and sciences), yet they share an amazing array of commonalities. We will explore these connections by examining the musical experience from a mathematical perspective. The mathematical study of a single vibrating string unlocks a world of musical overtones and harmonics-and even explains why a clarinet plays so much lower than its similar-sized cousin the flute. Calculus, and the related field of differential equations, shows us how our ears hear differences between two instruments-what musicians call timbre-even when they play the same note at the same loudness. Finally, abstract algebra gives modern language to the structures beneath the surface of Bach’s magnificent canons and fugues. Throughout the talk, mathematical concepts will come to life with musical examples played by the speaker, an amateur violinist.


Wednesday, October 16, 2013.  Mathematics Colloquium.
Prof. Alain Arneodo, Ecole Normale Supérieure de Lyon
“Surfing on the genome: A tribute to Jean Morlet”
3:30 – 4:20 pm, 141 Bennett Hall. (Snacks at 3:15 pm.)

Recent technical progress in live cell imaging have confirmed that the structure and dynamics of chromatin play an essential role in regulating many biological processes, such as gene activity, DNA replication, recombination and DNA damage repair. The main objective of this talk is to show that there is a lot to learn about these processes when using multi-scale signal processing tools like the continuous wavelet transform (WT) to analyze DNA sequences.

In higher eukaryotes, the absence of specific sequence motifs marking the origins ofreplication has been a serious hindrance to the understanding of the mechanisms that regulate the initiation and the maintenance of the replication program in different cell types. During the course of evolution, mutations do not affect equally both strands of genomic DNA. In mammals, transcription-coupled nucleotide compositional skews have been detected but no compositional asymmetry has been associated with replication. In a first part, using a wavelet-based multi-scale analysis of human genome skew profiles, we identify a set of one thousand putative replication initiation zones. We report on recent DNA replication timing data that provide experimental verification of our in silico replication origin predictions. In a second part, we examine the organisation of the human genes around the replication origins. We show that replication origins, gene orientation and gene expression are not randomly distributed but on the opposite are at the heart of a strong organisation of human chromosomes. The analysis of open chromatin markers brings evidence of the existence of accessible open chromatin around the majority of the putative replication origins that replicate early in the S phase. We conclude by discussing the possibility that these “masterí replication origins also play a key role in genome dynamics during evolution and in pathological situations like cancer.

Dr. Arneodo is a physicist having worked at the interface between physics and biology/medicine for several decades. He is the leader and instigator of large interdisciplinary and international collaborative efforts. He obtained his thesis in Elementary Particle Physics at the University of Nice (France) in 1978. His scientific interest then shifted to dynamical system theory, leading him to the Centre de Recherche Paul Pascal in Bordeaux (France), to collaborate with the experimental group that was working at that time on chemical chaos. In 2002, he moved his research group to Ecole Normale Supérieure de Lyon (France) to build a new laboratory at the physics-biology interface. Dr. Arneodo’s scientific contribution encompasses many fields of modern physics including statistical mechanics, dynamical systems theory, chemical chaos, pattern formation in reaction-diffusion systems, fully-developed turbulence, the mathematics of fractals and multifractals, fractal growth phenomena, signal and image processing, wavelet transform analysis and its applications in physics, geophysics, astrophysics, chemistry, biology and finance. He is a Director of Research at the CNRS (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, France) and has published extensively in the physics literature, including over 275 peer-reviewed papers. He has trained 25 Doctors of Science. In 2005 he received the Prize of the Academie Royale des Sciences, Lettres et Beaux-Arts de Belgique, for his work in non-linear phenomena in physics and for his more recent interdisciplinary contributions to the bio / physics interface. Dr. Arneodo visits Maine every year in the Fall, where he teaches and interacts with students in the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences and Engineering program, with faculty members of the Institute for Molecular Biophysics and with the CompuMAINE Laboratory.


Wednesday, October 9, 2013.  Mathematics Graduate Seminar.
Amber Hathaway, UMaine Mathematics MA student
“Emmy Noether’s Theorem in One Dimension”
3:30 – 4:20 pm, Hill Auditorium, Barrows Hall (ESRB). (Snacks at 3:15 pm.)

Noether’s Theorem provides a method for determining what quantities in a physical system are conserved. In this presentation we will derive the one-dimensional version of Emmy Noether’s Theorem in the case involving N dependent variables and first order derivatives.


Wednesday, October 2, 2013.  Mathematics Colloquium.
Dr. Sergey Lvin, UMaine Mathematics
“Differential identities for sin(x), , and x that came from medical imaging”
3:30 – 4:20 pm, Hill Auditorium, Barrows Hall (ESRB). (Snacks at 3:15 pm.)

We will introduce an infinite set of previously unknown differential identities for certain elementary functions, Including trigonometric and hyperbolic sines and cosines, exponential and linear functions.  These identities resemble the binomial formula and they initially appeared as a byproduct of our medical imaging research.  Some of the results are published in The American Mathematical Monthly in August-September 2013, some are new.

Students are welcome to attend.


Wednesday, September 25, 2013.  Pizza Pi Seminar.
Brian Toner, UMaine Mathematics MA student
“Math that Learns, the Mathematical Principles of Neural Networks and Machine Learning”
3:30 – 4:20 pm, Hill Auditorium, Barrows Hall (ESRB). (Snacks at 3:15 pm.)

A brief overview of Neural Networks, Machine Learning and the
mathematical machinery behind them.


Wednesday, September 18, 2013.  Mathematics Colloquium.
Prof. Robert Franzosa, UMaine Mathematics
“You Cannot Beat Bob In The Triangle Game Implies That A Beating Heart Cannot Respond In A Continuous Manner To A Stimulus Applied With Continuously Varying Strength And Timing”
3:30 – 4:20 pm, Hill Auditorium, Barrows Hall (ESRB). (Snacks at 3:15 pm.)

We will explore a game played on a triangular grid and see how properties of the game lead to the 2-dimensional Brouwer Fixed Point Theorem. Then we will see some interesting consequences of the Brouwer Fixed Point Theorem including the You-Are-Here Scenario and the No-Retraction Theorem. Finaly, one of the consequences will be applied to a simple heart-beat model to prove that a beating heart cannot respond in a continuous manner to an applied stimulus.


Image Description: GL_2(\mathbf{Q}_p)

Image Description: \mathbf{e^x}

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Mathematics & Statistics
5752 Neville Hall, Room 333
Orono, Maine 04469
Phone: (207) 581-3900 | Fax: (207) 581-3902
The University of Maine
Orono, Maine 04469
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