Great conference on a rainy Saturday

I brought my knot theory students to our regional meeting of the MAA today (the EPaDel section). It was one of the best EPaDel meetings I’ve attended. There were parallel talks, so it was hard to decide who to see. I decided to watch the student talks in the morning and the invited talks in the afternoon.

The student talks included knot theory, graph theory, combinatorics, fractals, and the Collatz conjecture—all of them were very well done.

The first invited talk I attended was “Sudoku: Questions, Variations, and Research” by Laura Taalman, James Madison University. It was an extremely entertaining talk. She was very funny, explained things well, had great slides, and got the students really excited. (She also passed out a handout of exotic sudoku puzzles that everyone worked on during the break.)

The second invited talk I attended was “The Quaternions—From Sir William Rowan Hamilton to Modern Physics and Topology” by Lou Kauffman, University of Illinois at Chicago. (I brought my knot theory students to the conference because Kaurffman was speaking.) Wow. It was fascinating. He gave a short history of the quaternions followed by interesting insight after interesting insight—vectors, complex numbers, 3-space, 4-space, rotations, a graph theoretical interpretation of vector products, physics, topology, the belt trick, knot theory, etc., etc.. I’m kicking myself for not taking notes.

(It is funny. Quaterions have come up three times in the last few months. I had chatted with one of my Calculus III students about how cross products are related to the multiplication of quaternions, they came up in a recent post on this blog, and now this talk!)

It was a great way to spend a rainy Saturday. (Oh, and it was nice that it was at Gettysburg College, a mere 40 minutes away rather than the usual 2-hour drive to Philadelphia!)