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May 13, 2009


I've been having a great time being the mathematics consultant to the Folger theater for their production of Tom Stoppard's play Arcadia. I figured I'm probably never going to get closer to a theater production, so I even managed to wrangle a credit in the program for the play. Anyway, the play is quite amazing because of all the mathematics that Stoppard puts in it (along with about a dozen other topics - everything from Romanticism to Garden Design). But I've been concentrating only on the mathematics - the iterated algorithms, the fractals, the chaos, the population dynamics. If you want to learn more about these topics (especially in connection with the play), I invite you to watch the above video. Also, go to the Folger website, where I've put up a bunch of other links to help understand the math.

Several scheduled events related to this: On Friday, May 15, the Folger is sponsoring "Fractal Friday" - a pre-theater talk where I will explain some of the mathematics highlights behind the play. On Monday, May 18, the American Math Society and the Math Assoc of America are jointly sponsoring an event on theater and math, where I will talk to cast members and the dramaturg about the challenge of representing mathematics (and mathematicians!) on stage. On Thursday, May 28, I will be moderating a talk-back at the Folger, with cast members and the director. And finally, on Saturday, Jun 13, members of the Folger will get to ask me about the math in the play to their hearts' content (as usual, other questions, such as the meaning of life, will also be entertained).

Posted by Manil Suri on May 13, 2009 4:47 PM Permalink

May 1, 2009

The Mathematics of Fiction

More than a year in the making, and finally here! The long-awaited sequel to "Taming Infinity" (which already has enjoyed more than 11,000 viewers on YouTube). A new math video, which requires NO knowledge of mathematics! You'll see me talk about all the approaches to math that DON'T work, and then see how it really should be done. With lots of nifty animations. Please watch (drumroll, please) THE MATHEMATICS OF FICTION! (I promise you'll find it entertaining.)

And I would LOVE to hear your feedback.

Posted by Manil Suri on May 1, 2009 10:01 PM Permalink

March 5, 2009

BBC Program "The Forum" - a mathematics discussion

It took lots of work with Jacqueline Smith, one of the producers of the BBC program, The Forum, but after weeks of talking and e-mailing, we finally nailed down a tentative script of what I would say on the show. It was all quite ambitious - in addition to explaining an idea I've been mulling: how "basis functions" crop up in several artistic fields (watch for a YouTube show on this very soon), I was also going to expound on my mathematical research on the finite element method. Well, the show was quite lively and fun, with two other guests - Ruth Padel (the great grand-daughter of Charles Darwin) and Andrea Sabbadini, chair of the European Psychoanalytic Film Festival. You can listen to all our comments here - they sort of united to form a whole greater than the individual contributions. (I come on after Ruth.)

As part of the show, I also got sixty seconds to describe an idea that would improve the world, which you can read here (together with some complimentary and not-so-complimentary feedback). My idea: teach kids to question everything!

Posted by Manil Suri on March 5, 2009 3:38 PM Permalink

March 3, 2009


While reading in Philadelphia in February last year, I was delighted to find some people from SIAM (Society of Industrial and Applied Mathematics) in the audience. One of them, Michelle Sipics, later wrote a profile article for SIAM News, which you can access here. See also the sidebar on "Taming Infinity."

The article complements a 2001 interview by Ivar Stakgold, which appeared at the time my first novel was published.

Posted by Manil Suri on March 3, 2009 3:51 PM Permalink

On Mathematics and Writing

Here's an article I wrote for "The Writing Life" column for the Washington Post on balancing my mathematics and writing careers. Be sure to check out the accompanying profile.

Posted by Manil Suri on March 3, 2009 3:35 PM Permalink

October 1, 2008

50 Semesters of Teaching!

I was invited to write an article for the "Lives" section of the New York Times Magazine's special College Issue (Sep 21, 2008). I had to summarize 25 years of being a professor into 870 words or less! Here is the article.

Posted by Manil Suri on October 1, 2008 2:07 PM Permalink

Interview in New York Times Science Section

In April 2008, I had a stimulating three hour conversation with Claudia Dreifus, a writer for the Science section of the New York Times. Here is the article based on this conversation, published in the New York Times on June 17, 2008.
Read Interview

Posted by Manil Suri on October 1, 2008 1:57 PM Permalink

December 12, 2007

If you are a non-mathematician.

Here are the items of particular interest to non-mathematicians on my Web site. First, there is an interview on math and math anxiety, which I gave to Sheilah Kast on her WYPR show, Maryland Morning. I especially want to thank the producer, Jennifer Chang, for her work in getting this on the air. Also, you can find a number of items under the "Outreach Activities" tab, including an excerpt from a story I wrote about mathematicians (called "The Tolman Trick"). Probably the link I'm most excited about, though, is the one to "Taming Infinity," a recording of a presentation on infinity. This is especially designed for non-mathematicians - it takes you deep into the abstract concept of infinity and the workings of mathematical proof, without involving anything more than fractions and decimals. (Do check it out - and incidentally, look carefully at the leopard's spots - it took me a while to get them on, using Photo Shop.)

Finally, there is some more information about the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) outreach I am performing in various schools. This last activity has been quite exciting, since it has brought me face to face with kids learning mathematics (and boy, are they energetic!) It's usually performance in school that determines the career path people choose, so I know at what a crucial time I am getting the opportunity to interact with them.

Posted by Manil Suri on December 12, 2007 3:33 PM Permalink


Welcome to my new Web site. In addition to looking great (thanks to the wonderful work by UMBC's Aaron Weidle), the new site is also better organized. I look forward to your comments.

Posted by Manil Suri on December 12, 2007 2:46 PM Permalink