“The Power + Beauty of Math”

The Nelson Lecture Series was established in 1999 in memory of Bruce J. Nelson (HMC ’74). Each year, distinguished guest speakers explore a topic of interest relating to mathematics, engineering or science. For fall 2009, the theme is “The Power + Beauty of Mathematics.” Brian Greene, the first speaker in this year’s series, came to Claremont on Oct. 2. Greene, a professor of mathematics and physics at Columbia University, is the author of “The Elegant Universe,” in which he attempts to make general relativity, quantum mechanics and string theory accessible to the general public. His speech, “String Theory: Reaching for Einstein’s Dream,” was an overwhelming success. Listeners packed Galileo Hall, and overflow seating was provided for still more guests to view the lecture remotely.

Danica McKellar arrived on Oct. 9 to present the second lecture of the year. Though McKellar is best known for her work portraying Winnie on television’s “The Wonder Years,” she is also an accomplished mathematician. Today she focuses much of her time on math education outreach, and she is the author of two books about math, “Math Doesn’t Suck” and “Kiss My Math.” Her books are intended to keep girls interested in math during the middle school years, when they are most likely to stop studying science and math.

Three more lectures are scheduled for the fall 2009 series. On Oct. 30, Gary Lorden, a professor of mathematics at California Institute of Technology and former technical advisor to the television show “Numb3rs” will speak on “The Intersection of Mathematics & Media.” On Nov. 12, Keith Devlin of Stanford University will present “Euclid’s ‘Elements’ as a Videogame.” The final lecture of the series, given by Steven Strogatz of Cornell University, will be presented on Nov. 20 on the topic “SYNC: The Emerging Science of Spontaneous Order.”

All lectures take place in Harvey Mudd’s Galileo Hall and begin at 7:30 p.m. Doors open at 7:15 p.m., but guests are encouraged to arrive early to ensure seating inside Galileo.