Did you hear the joke about the mouse which grew to be as big as an elephant?
Of course not. A mouse that large would collapse under its own weight. And this is because its bones’ strength would grow proportional to the square of the growth factor, while its weight would grow as the cube of the growth factor.
As an MIT student you’re comfortable with this kind of mathematical reasoning. You trust it. You exploit it. But not so your high school classmates now sitting in their classrooms elsewhere (down the road) preparing to be sitting in the Oval Office, or Congress, or the board room of Fortune 500 companies. Your friends will be trying to make policy decisions all the while confused by exponential processes, higher dimensional spaces, period doubling, strange attractors, complexity theory, N-P Complete problems.
In this IAP workshop we’ll try to invent some new mathematical descriptions of the large scale social problems that plague planet earth. We’ll reconsider the size of our problems not just in terms of their quantity, but also their dimensionality, their complexity, their structure.
Any and all ideas from any branch of mathematics will be welcomed. If group theory can find the Higgs Boson, why can’t group theory find the source of the mal-distribution of wealth? If knot theory can untangle the proteins in a restriction enzyme, why can’t knot theory untangle the log jam in Congress? If the Feigenbaum constant has something to say about preditor-prey relations, why can’t it say something insightful about the proliferation of national healthcare?
Our discussions and problem solving will be far ranging and provocative.
The workshop format:
5 days M-F 10:30 - 1:30
Each morning we’ll hear from a guest speaker — in person or SKYPE — who will direct our engineering minds to a problem to which they have devoted their lives. Then it’s your turn to spend a couple hours brainstorming, culminating in a presention of your “new math.”