MATC Mathematics Club
Lecture #111

Madison Area Technical College
Madison, Wisconsin


Spring 2012 Presentation #111 (February 3, 2012)

Robert L. Devaney, Boston University

"Chaos Games and Fractal Images"

Abstract: In this lecture we will describe some of the beautiful images that arise from the "Chaos Game." We will show how the simple steps of this game produce, when iterated millions of times, the intricate images known as fractals. We will describe some of the applications of this technique used in data compression as well as in Hollywood. We will also challenge students present to "Beat the Professor" at the chaos game and maybe win his computer.

Biography: A native of Methuen, Massachusetts, Robert L. Devaney is currently Professor of Mathematics at Boston University. He received his undergraduate degree from the College of the Holy Cross in 1969 and his PhD from the University of California at Berkeley in 1973 under the direction of Stephen Smale. He taught at Northwestern University and Tufts University before coming to Boston University in 1980. His main area of research is dynamical systems, primarily complex analytic dynamics, but also including more general ideas about chaotic dynamical systems. Lately, he has become intrigued with the incredibly rich topological aspects of dynamics, including such things as indecomposable continua, Sierpinski curves, and Cantor bouquets. He is the author of over one hundred research papers in the field of dynamical systems as well as a dozen pedagogical papers in this field.. In 2012 he will become President-elect of the Mathematical Association of America. Then, in 2013-14, he will serve as the President of the MAA. Professor Devaney has delivered over 1,500 invited lectures on dynamical systems and related topics in all 50 states in the US and in over 30 countries on six continents worldwide. (He only needs Antarctica to complete his goal of speaking on all continents ---so if you teach at South Pole State and run some kind of seminar, give him a call!) Approximately one-third of these lectures were aimed at research-level audiences; one-third were for undergraduate students and/or faculty; and one-third were for high school students and/or faculty or the general public. Several of these lectures are available on videotape from Science TV or Key Curriculum Press. He has also been the "Chaos Consultant" for several theaters' presentations of Tom Stoppard's play Arcadia. And, in 2007, he was the mathematical consultant for the Kevin Spacey movie called Twenty One. In 1994 he received the Award for Distinguished University Teaching from the Northeastern section of the Mathematical Association of America. In 1995 he was the recipient of the Deborah and Franklin Tepper Haimo Award for Distinguished University Teaching at the annual meeting of the Mathematical Association of America. In 1996, he was awarded the Boston University Scholar/Teacher of the Year Award. In 2002 he received the National Science Foundation Director's Award for Distinguished Teaching Scholars. In 2002, he also received the ICTCM Award for Excellence and Innovation with the Use of Technology in Collegiate Mathematics. In 2003, he was the recipient of Boston University's Metcalf Award for Teaching Excellence. In 2004 he was named the Carnegie/CASE Massachusetts Professor of the Year. In 2005 he received the Trevor Evans Award from the Mathematical Association of America for an article entitled Chaos Rules published in Math Horizons. In 2009 he was inducted into the Massachusetts Mathematics Educators Hall of Fame. And in 2010 he was named the Feld Family Professor of Teaching Excellence at Boston University.


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