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Oct. 10, 2006

Math and What? Smith College Festival to Explore Surprising Connections

NORTHAMPTON, Mass.—It’s often not apparent to those enjoying works of art, but hidden within the masterpieces are complex mathematical equations, theorems and concepts that give the works their fundamental structure.

Renowned Italian painter and sculptor Leonardo da Vinci toyed with mathematical constructs. Father of classical music Johann Sebastian Bach wove algebraic symmetry into his concertos and sonatas. For that matter, mathematicians say their work involves a creative process similar to that which is experienced by artists and musicians.

Thursday through Saturday, Oct. 26-28, Smith College will explore those ideas with a series of talks titled “Mathematics, the Arts, and Other Surprising Connections: a Festival of Discovery.” The festival honors Marjorie Senechal, the Louise Wolff Kahn Professor in Mathematics and History of Science and Technology, who will retire in May after 41 years on the Smith faculty.

The following slate of events are planned. With the exception of the theatrical production, all are free and open to the public:

Oct. 26 at 5 p.m., Smith alumna Mirela Ciperjani '00, the Ritt Assistant Professor of Mathematics at Columbia University, will talk about "Genus one curves defined over the rational numbers" as part of the festival and the Connecticut Valley Mathematics Colloquium in Burton 101.

Oct. 26 at 8 p.m., Helaman Ferguson, a sculptor and mathematician, will talk about his sculpture “Aperiodic Penrose Alpha” in the Neilson Library Browsing Room. Ferguson produced the sculpture, which is displayed in the foyer of Burton Hall and was commissioned by Senechal and donated to the college.

Oct. 27-28, Nov. 1-4, at 8 p.m.; Oct. 29 at 2 p.m., the New England premiere of the theatrical producion "Delicious Rivers" in the Hallie Flanagan Studio Theater, Mendenhall Center for the Performing Arts. The musical play was written and composed by OBIE Award-winner Ellen Maddow in collaboration with Senechal, and directed by Paul Zimet, associate professor of theater at Smith. Tickets are $7 for the general public, $5 for students and seniors. Call (413) 585-ARTS (2787), or visit the Smith performing arts calendar   online.

Oct. 27 at 4:30 p.m., Loren Graham, professor of the history of science at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, will describe “Religious Heresy and Mathematical Creativity in Russia” in the Neilson Library Browsing Room. Senechal and Graham have collaborated for ten years in a bi-national program to support scientific research at Russian universities.

Oct. 28 at 1:30 p.m., “The Puzzle of Creativity” panel discussion at the Kahn Institute, Neilson Library third floor, will feature Ferguson, Maddow and Zimet, as well as Smith faculty members Pau Atela, professor of mathematics and statistics, and Andrea Hairston, professor of theater.

Marjorie Senechal

In her multi-faceted career, Senechal has developed numerous interdisciplinary connections, including founding and directing the college’s Louise B. and Edmund J. Kahn Liberal Arts Institute and directing the Northampton Silk Project.

Senechal is the author or editor of 12 books, including "Shaping Space," "Quasicrystals and Geometry," "Long Life to Your Children! A Portrait of High Albania," and "Northampton's Century of Silk." She is co-editor-in-chief of the "Mathematical Intelligencer" and a member of the board of directors of the Civilian Research and Development Foundation and co-chair of the Russian-American Governing Council of its program Basic Research and Higher Education.

Go online for the complete schedule of “Mathematics, the Arts, and Other Surprising Connections."

Office of College Relations
Smith College
Garrison Hall
Northampton, Massachusetts 01063

Eric Weld
Assistant Director
T (413) 585-2190
F (413) 585-2174

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