University of Chicago professor to discuss real-life applications of math

Brooke Schwartz, News Editor

Benson Farb, a math professor at the University of Chicago, will be giving a talk titled ‘The Power of X: Polynomials, Braids and You’.

The talk, happening Thursday at 6 p.m. in the Lecture Hall of the Doudna Fine Arts Center, is, according to the poster, the first part in the 2018 Perry Lectures, sponsored by William Perry, past Eastern president and professor in the department of mathematics and computer sciences.

Farb said polynomials have always been important in life and in understanding the world that surrounds us.

“(Polynomials) run your life, whether you like it or not. The equations that describe nature and predict motion are all polynomials. These are things people have been trying to understand since the Babylonians, like 3,000 years ago, so I’m basically going to talk about some of the mind-blowing ways that we’re now understanding polynomials,” Farb said. “There’s some problems you can’t do an exact computation, you can’t do stuff on a computer, you just want to understand qualitatively the nature of solutions.”

He said math has come far and is continuing to grow and evolve.

“Mathematicians, we’ve progressed so far, it’s the equivalent (of) if physicists were doing teleportation,” Farb said.

He said the talk is meant for people of any age and any background, with the subject matter being important to everyone.

“Most people don’t understand that everything is based on science and mathematics,” he said. “From automobiles, computers, when you use an ATM machine you’re solving equations; (it’s) understanding (that) the universe isn’t some theoretical thing, it’s a part of every single aspect of our lives.”

Farb said he hopes people gain a new world perspective and that they realize math and science are about the truth, and many qualified people are out there searching for just that.

“Just knowing that people are searching for the truth, it’s beautiful and it’s fundamental and even if you’re not doing (searching for it) yourself, it’s really good to know about the enterprise,” he said. “Just to feel that somebody’s doing it.”

Brooke Schwartz can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected].