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Pi Mu Epsilon guest speaker links mathematics & music

Professor David Kung of St. Mary's College of Maryland visited campus on Oct. 26 for a lively demonstration of the way math and music intersect.

Professor David Kung

‚ÄčElon University's chapter of Pi Mu Epsilon, the national mathematics honor society, hosted mathematician/musician Dave Kung on Oct. 26 for a Whitley Auditorium presentation that demonstrated commonalities between math and music.

The professor of mathematics at St. Mary's College of Maryland delivered his talk, "Harmonious Equations: A Mathematical Exploration of Music," to nearly four dozen audience members. Kung showed how the mathematical theory behind a single vibrating string unlocks a world of musical overtones and harmonics, even explaining why a clarinet plays so much lower than the similar-sized flute. 

Kung then used calculus and differential equations to explain how the human ear hears differences between two instruments, even when they play the same note at the same loudness. Finally, Kung demonstrated how the beautiful field of abstract algebra gives modern language to the structures beneath the surface of some of Bach's canons and fugues.

As advertised, three students received door prizes.  Two of the students, Bethany Molokach '17 and Katie Maresca '18, received gift cards.  Jacob Wells '17 received a gift that Kung himself donated: a DVD copy of Kung's Great Courses lectures on "How Music and Mathematics Relate." These lectures have quickly become a top math & science seller for the Teaching Company. And a follow-up effort, "Mind-Bending Math: Riddles & Paradoxes," was released in July 2015.

The afternoon event concluded with honor society advisor Chad Awtrey advertising the society's final event of the semester: a special guest lecture on sports rankings given by mathematician Mike Mossinghoff from Davidson College. 

Mossinghoff's talk will take place on Wednesday, November 18, 3:30-4:30 in Lakeside 212.  The event is free and open to the community. The title and abstract for his talk are as follows.

Title: "FIFA Foe Fun!"
Abstract: "Who do you think is the #1 team in the world in international soccer? Do you smell the blood of an Englishman? In FIFA and many other sports leagues, ranking is a difficult task, since not all pairs of opponents meet over the course of a season. Rankings are often very important though, as they can inform selection to post-season or tournament play. A number of mathematical methods have been created to address this ranking problem, using linear algebra and probability. We will describe some general methods developed for ranking that can be applied widely both in sports and in other applications. We'll also describe how these methods can be adapted to produce personalized rankings, where you can choose to emphasize (or downplay) various factors. You'll have a chance to try your own hand at this: bring your mobile device!"



Eric Townsend,
10/28/2015 8:50 AM