MATC Mathematics Club
Lecture #50
Madison Area Technical College
Madison, Wisconsin
"Sona, Kolam and Celtic Knots: Mathematical Explorations with One-Line Drawings"
Abstract: In connection with story-telling and initiation rituals, the Tshokwe people of southeastern Africa drew elaborate designs made from a smooth curve winding through an array of dots. Similar designs appear in south Indian threshold drawings and Celtic knotwork. We'll look at the mathematical structure of these designs, and make some progress toward solving the main open question about how to generate them. In particular, you'll learn a powerful method for drawing and designing Tshokwe, Sona, and Celtic knots.
Biography: Philip Straffin is Professor of Mathematics at Beloit College. He has a B.A. from Harvard University, a B.A. and M.A. from Cambridge University, and a Ph.D. from University of California-Berkeley. Phil was a Marshall Scholar and winner of a Rockefeller Fellowship. He was the College's Teacher of the Year in 1975 and again in 1994 and was named a Distinguished Teacher of Mathematics in 1993 by the Mathematical Association of America. He was for many years the coach of the College's teams in COMAP's Mathematical Contest in Modeling; two teams in the 1990's won the top award. He has two awards from the Mathematical Association of America for expository writing: the Allendoerfer Prize in 1985 and the Trevor Evans Award in 2003. His research interests include game theory, social choice theory, chaotic dynamical systems, topology, and ethnomathematics. His years of research and teaching in game theory and in topology culminated in Game Theory and Strategy (1993) and Topology Now! (2006), both published by the Mathematical Association of America.
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