AMS conference

Mood: cheerful

Music: Mannheim Steamroller - "God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen"

Posted on 2006-01-16 09:35:00

Words: 677

So djedi and I got up early Saturday morning to drive down to San Antonio for the AMS conference. It was a neat experience, and I took some pictures that I may or may not put up, depending on how they turned out...

The morning we/I (mostly we but djedi had a few interviews) wandered around some, and checked out the exhibitors. There were a lot of textbook companies, some software companies, a few nifty art places (usually selling wooden Mobius strips, neato glass geometric figure lamps, and the like), and even the Numeric Mathematical Consortium, which was being manned by a friend from NI, which I didn't expect to see any of!

We grabbed lunch at the River Center, I had a smoothie which I really wasn't impressed with from Smoothie King, and headed back for afternoon stuff. djedi had more interviews in the afternoon, so I went to a few talks and proofread some of his paper. I was a little disappointed/regretful that I didn't understand even the titles of most of the talks, and felt very out of place considering that I was a math major not so long ago. But I guess that's what happens when you don't do math for a while. It was just a little frustrating.

Anyway, the talks I did go to were mostly fluff, but entertaining fluff! One was about math and science in the Whedon universe (Buffy, Angel, Firefly/Serenity). The point was that in each of these universes, there is a female character who's very good at math/science (Willow in Buffy, Winifred/Fred in Angel, River Tam in Firefly). Most of the presentation was, well, that, and she played some sound clips from all three of these, which was of course entertaining. And I've never watched Angel, but Fred is a graduate student in physics(?), and her thesis advisor sends her to hell, so she got some good laughs out of that :-)

Another was by the same woman about math/science in Simpsons and Futurama, focusing on David X. Cohen. She runs SimpsonsMath.com, which has lots of interesting stuff about the Simpsons and Futurama. One interesting anecdote she related (she's talked to David X. Cohen!):

So in the Simpsons episode Treehouse of Horror VI, in the Homer 3D one, one of the equations they snuck in the background was 1782^12 + 1841^12 = 1922^12. This is clearly not true (otherwise it would be a counterexample to Fermat's Last Theorem), but if you add the left side on a calculator and take the twelfth root, it comes out as 1922, due to floating-point rounding. (David X. Cohen calls this a Fermat near-miss, and he put up the programs he used to generate them) So this started a debate on the newsgroups on whether this really was a counterexample, which was the desired effect.

However, there's an easy parity argument (the left side is clearly odd, and the right side is clearly even) that shows why it isn't true, which the writers hadn't considered. So, they snuck another near-miss in The Wizard of Evergreen Terrace - 3987^12 + 4365^12 = 4472^12, and this one is correct in terms of parity! (although there are divisibility arguments to be made, but what do you want?)

And again in that presentation she showed Simpsons clips and Futurama clips and all was happy and well.

The other presentation I went to was about Fibonacci numbers and Diophantine equations, which was done by two undergraduates based on their summer research. It was pretty good - the problem is that the talks are all really short (they did theirs in 15 mins) so I mostly understood, but the details started flying by. I was pretty confident that if I sat down and reda through their presentation, I would understand it, though.

So we headed home and both felt pretty bad that evening - it was a long day, and I had acquired a headache, my muscles were sore, and I was cranky. These are usually signs that I'm dehydrated (my skin felt dry, too), and they were mostly gone by Sunday, thank goodness.

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