Handicapped at College

T4322On crutches after a recent bicycle mishap, I’m getting a sense of what it’s like to be handicapped at college. Everything takes longer, it’s hard to get from one event to another on time, and you have to depend on other people. That last inconvenience, dependence on others, can be a blessing. Here at Berkshire Community College (where I’m spending part of my sabbatical)  I’m finding the kindness of others a source of much comfort and joy. When I arrived the first day on crutches, a student, already late for an appointment, took the time to help me up the banks of stairs from the parking lot and carried all my stuff for me. Security promptly provided me with more convenient handicap parking. My third example is one that few schools could match: as I stood in line at breakfast, wondering how I would get my tray to a table, President Ellen Kennedy appeared on her way to an appointment and carried my tray to my table for me. Continue reading ‘Handicapped at College’ »

Summer Program for NYC Middle School Students

Had a great time Saturday (26 July 2014) with my 2014 Geometry Group at the Summer Program for Mathematical Problem Solving at Siena College, a three-week program for 38 mathematical talented middle schools students who go to low income NYC public schools. We presented Soap Bubbles and Mathematics, including a little guessing contest with demonstrations, explanations, and prizes, won by Rashik Ahmed. Photos show in action my students Bryan Christopher Brown, Alyssa Loving, Wyatt Boyer, and Sarah Elizabeth Tammen.


Donna Kalinowsky on Berkshire Community College

I am excited about spending part of my sabbatical this fall at Berkshire Community College. I’d say that community colleges are where education meets the future. It looks like next year for the first time a majority of US college students will be at community colleges. So far everyone I’ve met loves the college and its President. Here’s an account, “The Good Things,” by one of the math adjuncts, Donna Kalinowsky, of some of the reasons she loves the place:

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Jean Taylor’s 70th at MoMath

Taylor_Jean_Jan02Friends, mathematicians, scientists, and the public celebrated the 70th birthday of distinguished mathematican Jean Taylor at the Museum of Mathematics in New York City, Saturday evening, September 6, 8-10:30 pm. It was Taylor who proved Plateau’s rules for soap bubbles. I wouldn’t miss it. You can register for $25 (additional donations completely optional and not specifically for Taylor celebration). There was also a little symposium of 5- to 15-minute talks 1 pm Saturday afternoon at the Courant Institute at NYU (photos thanks to Christina Sormani). See comments for well wishes.

Group Continue reading ‘Jean Taylor’s 70th at MoMath’ »

Clusters for General Norms

Just as a a soap bubble minimizes surface area, crystals minimize a more general energy depending on orientation with respect to the underlying crystal lattice, given by integrating some (continuous) norm on the unit normal. (One might drop the usual assumption that a norm is even.) The optimal shape is the unit ball of the dual norm, called the Wulff crystal (see [M2, Chapt. 16]). Continue reading ‘Clusters for General Norms’ »

Isoperimetric Problems in Pisa

Enjoying a conference on isoperimetric problems in Pisa. (Click on image to enlarge.)

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Grand Hotel San Michele

I’m speaking at a CIME school at the truly Grand Hotel San Michele on the Italian coast, kindly organized by Alberto Farina and Enrico Valdinoci. The path from the hotel to the private beachclub is rather dramatic. It begins with a long descent down the front stairs and another long stairway under the highway.

BeachWalk01 Steps1 BeachWalk03

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New Optimal Pentagonal Tilings

A joint paper [C1] with my SMALL undergraduate research Geometry Group found least-perimeter pentagonal unit-area tiles, Cairo and Prismatic:

They proved that mixtures of unit-area convex pentagonal tiles can do no better, but found many examples of Cairo-Prismatic tilings that do equally well [C1, C2]. Since their work seven more have been discovered. The first four were found and rendered by one of the original coauthors, Maggie Miller. The first, “Double Pillbox,” adds p4 to p1, p2, p4g, and cmm as the fifth of the seventeen Wallpaper symmetry groups; will anyone find examples of the other twelve? We’d be happy to post any new examples here.

DoublePillBox          River

              Double Pillbox                                                              River

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Williams: Inclusive or Exclusive?

Which quote embodies the best of Williams?

1. “We are so fortunate and proud to be part of this exceptional group of brilliant and interesting faculty and students, the likes of which you’ll find nowhere else.”

2. “As a result of what we have been lucky enough to discover here, we are humbly eager to expand our boundaries and to respect, learn from, and share with everyone.” Continue reading at WilliamsAlternative.com

Academics Must be Williams’s Top Priority

This letter of mine appeared in the Williams Record May 7, 2014.

The April 16 Faculty meeting dealt with two important concerns of mine: the growth in administrative staff at Williams and student advising. During the short discussion periods, I had a chance to comment on the first but not on the second, though my first comment had been preparation for the second. In the senior administration, responsibilities have passed from the academic posts of Provost and Dean of the College, occupied by faculty, to new Vice-Presidents. The consequential challenge is to stay focused on academics as our top priority through an inclusive and democratic process. I think that such recent processes as the closing of dining halls and plans for dormitory renovations have paid too little attention to academic concerns through a more corporate decision process. My Opinion piece on “Decisions and Priorities” (May 5, 2010) elaborated on this point. On the other hand, I would like to commend Doug Schiazza, Director of Student Life, for his inclusive and open-minded work with his new student-faculty-staff Upperclass Residential Life Advisory Committee. The new CEP report on “Students Curricular Choices,” presented at the Faculty meeting, recommends “initiating a broader conversation about the value of the liberal arts” and proposes several mechanisms. I wanted to suggest a more natural and organic approach. My favorite sentence in the report says: “Is there something about a small liberal arts college that could encourage a more intimate and social space for learning that actually takes advantage of its uniqueness?” My answer is yes, the opportunities within the dining and residential systems, many such opportunities recently missed, but many more still ahead, if we vigilantly watch for them with academics always our first priority. That’s what I wanted to say but didn’t have a chance.