World Authority on Chaos and Fractals to Speak April 4;
First Annual Joseph Parsons Lecture
The leap from chaos theory to computer animation will be explored in an
entertaining lecture by one of the nation's top mathematicians at 7 p.m.
Thursday, April 4, at UNC Asheville's Humanities Lecture Hall. Robert L.
Devaney, a Boston University mathematics professor and one of the world's
experts on chaos, generated the mathematical definition of chaos that is
the basis of current research in the field. His talk, "The Chaos Game
and Fractal Images," is free and open to the public.
"Cream in coffee, weather patterns, the current in a stream, and
sometimes even traffic flow are examples of chaotic systems," says
UNCA Mathematics Professor Samuel Kaplan, who invited Devaney to speak.
"Chaotic systems have a rule, like how cream swirls in a coffee cup,
but the system is so complicated you can't make any long term predictions
about where a particular molecule will be in the cup in five minutes.
Mathematicians seek to describe and identify chaotic systems and find
their underlying rules."
But when mathematicians try to describe the geometry of chaos, they
don't end up with lines and circles, they end up with fractals.
"Fractals are geometric figures we didn't learn about in middle
school. They live in the never-never land between dimensions. Fractals
allow computer animators to build realistic looking skin and trees and
clouds. Fractals also allow mathematicians to model data transmission,
biological systems, growth and spread of a fire, the stock market and even
how fast tire tread wears on an interstate highway.
Devaney's lecture is the first annual Parsons Lecture, in honor of
Professor Emeritus Joseph Parsons. Once the sole mathematics professor at
UNCA's predecessor institution, Asheville-Biltmore College, Parsons was
among the handful of early faculty and administrators who set the
institution on the path to become the state's designated liberal arts
For more information about Devaney's talk, call Samuel Kaplan, UNCA
Mathematics Department, at 232-5192 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.