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Two Centuries of Prime Numbers
Monday 30 September 2013, 19:00–20:00 Eastern Avenue Auditorium
This talk is part of the 2013 Mahler Tour
Surprisingly, there have been fundamental new discoveries about prime numbers in the last decade, most recently by Yitang Zhang a few months ago. I'll survey some of our understanding of prime numbers in a nontechnical fashion, starting with the "music of the primes" – the strange oscillations between regions where primes are more common and more scarce – and concluding with a discussion of Zhang's discovery: prime numbers must occasionally come very close to one another.
Faster, Safer, Healthier: Adventures in Operations Research
Tuesday 1st October 2013, 19:00–20:00 Eastern Avenue Auditorium
While mathematical advances of all sorts have impacted our world for the better, operations research is a branch of mathematics that is expressly focused on applying advanced analytical methods to help make better decisions. Operations researchers have eased traffic jams by closing selected streets, and gotten packages to you more quickly by planning U.P.S. routes with fewer left turns. Operations researchers have shown which personal decisions are the leading causes of death, and planned maintenance schedules to minimize bridge collapses. I use operations research to get more people a kidney transplant, and to make sure liver transplants are allocated fairly to people who live in different places across the United States. The mathematical tools of operations research, like using random numbers to simulate a range of outcomes when some data are unknown, or finding clever algorithms that shortcut the need to try every possible decision in order to find the best one, can be recycled and used to solve other practical problems. In this talk, I will describe some of my O.R. forays into far-flung fields, and tell my favorite stories about O.R.