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Ravi Vakil: “The Mathematics of Doodling”

Professor Ravi Vakil, 2013 Moody Lecture Speaker

Professor Ravi Vakil of Stanford University presented the fifth lecture in The Michael E. Moody Lecture Series on “The Mathematics of Doodling”

Ravi Vakil is a Professor of Mathematics at Stanford, where he is also the Robert K. Packard University Fellow and the David Huntington Faculty Scholar. He is an algebraic geometer, and his work touches on many other parts of mathematics, including topology, string theory, applied mathematics, combinatorics, number theory, and more.

He was born in Toronto, Canada, and studied at the University of Toronto, where he was a four-time Putnam Fellow (winner of the Putnam competition). He received his Ph.D. from Harvard in 1997, and taught at Princeton and MIT before moving to Stanford in 2001. He has received the Dean's Award for Distinguished Teaching, the AMS Centennial Fellowship, a Sloan Research Fellowship, and the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, and numerous other awards. He is also currently the Mathematical Association of America's Pólya Lecturer 2012–2014, and an informal advisor to the new website mathoverflow. He works extensively with talented younger mathematicians at all levels, from high school (through math circles, camps, and olympiads), through recent Ph.D.'s.

More information about Ravi Vakil is available from his website.

The lecture took place on Friday, April 19, 2013, at 7:00 PM, in HMC's Galileo McAlister lecture hall.

Abstract

Spring 2013 Moody Lecture Poster Download the Poster

Doodling has many mathematical aspects: patterns, shapes, numbers, and more. Not surprisingly, there is often some sophisticated and fun mathematics buried inside common doodles. I'll begin by doodling, and see where it takes us. It looks like play, but it reflects what mathematics is really about: finding patterns in nature, explaining them, and extending them. By the end, we'll have seen some important notions in geometry, topology, physics, and elsewhere; some fundamental ideas guiding the development of mathematics over the course of the last century; and ongoing work continuing today.