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Speaker to show the numbers behind the scenes

Oct. 19, 2010

KALAMAZOO--Few people expect to encounter mathematics on a visit to an art gallery or even on a walk down a city street.

But, a visiting author and former math and science teacher will show a local audience how it all adds up in a talk on Friday, Oct. 22, at Western Michigan University.

Dr. Ivars Peterson, director of publications and communications at the Mathematical Association of America in Washington, D.C., will speak at 4 p.m. in Room 1110 of Rood Hall. His presentation, titled "Geometreks," is free and open to the public.

In an illustrated presentation, Peterson will show that when we explore the world around us with mathematics in mind, we see the many ways in which math can manifest itself in streetscapes, sculptures, paintings, architecture and more.

Peterson, an award-winning author, has spent many years wandering with camera in hand, capturing illuminating glimpses of mathematics, from Euclidean geometry and normal distributions to Riemann sums and Möbius strips, in a variety of structures and artworks around the country.

Peterson earned a bachelor of science degree, majoring in physics and chemistry, and a bachelor of education degree from the University of Toronto. He taught high school science and mathematics for eight years.

In 1980, he left teaching to obtain a master's degree in journalism from the University of Missouri in Columbia. He served as an intern at Science News in Washington, D. C., then joined the weekly magazine's staff, working there for 25 years. He also has served as editor for Science News Online and Science News for Kids.

He received the Joint Policy Board for Mathematics Communications Award for his exceptional ability and sustained effort in communicating mathematics to a general audience. Peterson's first book, "The Mathematical Tourist: Snapshots of Modern Mathematics," was widely and favorably reviewed. He followed up that success with "Islands of Truth: A Mathematical Mystery Cruise," "Newton's Clock: Chaos in the Solar System," "Fatal Defect: Chasing Killer Computer Bugs," "The Jungles of Randomness: A Mathematical Safari," "Fragments of Infinity: A Kaleidoscope of Math and Art" and "Mathematical Treks: From Surreal Numbers to Magic Circles."

He has collaborated with his wife, Nancy Henderson, on two books introducing selected topics in contemporary mathematics to middle-school age children titled "Math Trek: Adventures in the MathZone" and "Math Trek 2: A Mathematical Space Odyssey." For more than 10 years, he wrote the "Math Page" column for the children's magazine Muse.

Peterson's visit is sponsored by the WMU Department of Mathematics and WMU's Michigan Epsilon Chapter of Pi Mu Epsilon, the national mathematics honors society.

For more information, contact Dr. Niloufer Mackey, WMU professor of mathematics, at (269) 387-4594.

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Media contact: Mark Schwerin, (269) 387-8400, mark.schwerin@wmich.edu

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