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Press Release


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Beth Sorensen
Office of Communications


Lectures by three internationally notable mathematicians--Bart de Smit, John Sullivan, and Yvan Saint-Aubin--will be held at Reed College on July 17, 18, and 22 in connection with a summer school at Reed sponsored by the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute in Berkeley, California (lecture details follow). The lectures are free and open to the public; for more information visit or call 503/777-7755.

7:30 p.m., psychology auditorium
Bart de Smit, University of Leiden: "Escher and the Droste Effect"
Bart de Smit received his Ph.D. in mathematics in Berkeley in 1993. Since 1997 he has been a mathematician at the Universiteit Leiden in the Netherlands, primarily working in number theory. De Smit will discuss Print Gallery, one of M.C. Escher's most intriguing works, which depicts a man standing in a gallery who looks at a print of a city that contains the building that he is standing in himself. This picture contains a mysterious white hole in the middle. De Smit and mathematician Hendrik Lenstra have discerned that what Escher was trying to achieve in this work has a unique mathematical solution concerning elliptic curves. With help from artists and computer scientists a completion of the picture was constructed at the Universiteit Leiden. The white hole turns out to contain the entire image on a smaller scale (which in Dutch is known as the Droste effect, after the Dutch chocolate maker). De Smit will explain the mathematics behind Escher's print and the process of making the completion, which will also be visualized with computer animations. Many more aspects of this topic can be found at .

7:30 p.m., psychology auditorium
John Sullivan, University of Illinois, University of Berlin: "Optimal Geometry as Art"
John Sullivan is a professor of mathematics at the Technical University of Berlin and at the University of Illinois. He received his Ph.D. from Princeton in 1990, after earlier degrees from Harvard and Cambridge. Sullivan's research in geometry deals with finding optimal shapes for curves and surfaces in space. Examples include clusters of soap bubbles, which minimize their surface area, or knots tied tight in rope, which minimize their length. Sullivan will show two computer-generated videos, illustrating optimal shapes for knots and a mathematical way to turn a sphere inside out (controlled by surface bending energy). He will discuss the artistic choices that went into the making these films and will show other examples of mathematical art arising from optimal geometry, including computer-generated sculpture.

7:30 p.m., psychology auditorium
Yvan Saint-Aubin, University of Montreal: "Mathematics and Technology"
"Mathematics pervades technology. Or so claim mathematicians," says Yvan Saint-Aubin. He is a professor and chair at the University of Montreal department of mathematics and statistics, specializing in theoretical and mathematical physics. Saint-Aubin is co-editor, with Luc Vinet, of Theoretical Physics at the End of the XXth Century (Springer Verlag, 2002) and Algebraic Methods in Physics: A Symposium for the 60th Birthday of Jiri Patera and Pavel Winternitz (Springer Verlag, 2001); he has also written numerous articles in journals of mathematics and physics. In this lecture Saint-Aubin will present two ways in which mathematics were indeed essential to the establishment of the standard of the compact disc.

Reed College, in Portland, Oregon, is an undergraduate institution of the liberal arts and sciences dedicated to sustaining the highest intellectual standards in the country. With an enrollment of about 1,360 students, Reed ranks third in the undergraduate origins of Ph.D.s in the United States and second in the number of Rhodes scholars from a liberal arts college (31 since 1915).

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