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Talk by Thomas Garrity

March 1, 2013

There are mathematicians who are also magicians like Art Benjamin [click here for his Youtube video] and Persi Diaconis

There are more mathematicians who are also comedians like the cast from Williams College in the five parts series in YouTube “The Debate of Pi / e”, Thomas Garrity, Ed Burger and the other guy who was defending for Pi. [see for e.g.,    CHRUNNER ForumR ]

I had the opportunity to meet the debater who likes pink underwear.  That’s non other than Dr. Thomas Garrity. At first I thought I would not be able to make it for the talk because it was on Thursday evening from 6PM to 7PM, but some cancellations later, I was happy to learn that I can make it.  But I could not make the dinner with him. Before the talk, Dr. Garrity came over to my seat and shook my hand.  I politely introduced myself and immediately he knew I was doing work with Galiffa.  Galiffa must’ve told him about our me during dinner.  When the pizza was served and the talk started, Dr. Garrity asked,

“When I say ‘number’ what’s the first thing that comes to your mind?”

I raised my hands and answered “One, two, three!” And immediate came his thunderous voice,

“Noooooooooooooo!”

With his condescending look, it was more meant to ridicule a student than to tell him he’s wrong.  Even the female student who was next to me sat in tripedation for the next 30 – 50 mins afraid to ask any question.  I took it in my stride.  He knew I’m not a student and when I shook his hands earlier on, he already enquired about my “specialty” and the kind of research I’m doing now with Dr. Galiffa.  He seemed to be knowledgeable enough to know a bit of everything. His talk went on an elementary level for about half an hour on real numbers, integers, rational numbers, and irrational numbers.  Then he slowly brought up algebraic numbers, ‘quadratic irrationals’, then the “cubic irrationals” and then in terms of continued fractions and numbers that followed triangles sequences, (this last one is a recent research Dr. Garrity is doing with Assaf, Chen, Cheslack-Postava, Cooper, Diesl and Schuyler).

I found all of these very interesting even though I got a little lost myself near the end.  But in between it was peppered with history and stories of Hermite and Jacobi.  And a little about how Dr. Garrity himself likes to do things without any influence from other mathematicians, especially great mathematicians that will send a shiver down your spine. I was glad I got to meet Dr. Garrity.  I got to talk with him a little after his talk and he helped me realize that what I am doing now with Dr. Galiffa on Special Functions with Orthogonal polynomials, is in fact related to my old thesis on Algebraic Toplogy on bundles over the Riemann surface  via the theta function.  真是一言惊醒梦中人!

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