Time to get back to the classroom! Our spring semester starts tomorrow. This term I’ll be teaching Calculus I and History of Math. I have a relatively light teaching load this term, as my reward for accepting a relatively heavy teaching load last term.
Things are going to be a bit hectic for me this week. On Thursday I’ll be in Baltimore to spend the day at the annual math extravaganza known as the Joint Mathematics Meetings. The conference is actually four days long, but, sadly, it was not practical for me this year to attend more than one day. But I’ll take what I can get. I’m on my school’s search committee this year, so some of my time will be spent down in the employment center helping out with the interviews. I’ll also be meeting with some folks. There’s always time for schmoozing and networking, after all! Who knows? Maybe I’ll even attend a talk or two.
But that’s really just a prelude. I’m stopping off in Baltimore on my way up to New York City, which is where I’ll be on Friday (the 17th). At 2:00 in the afternoon I’ll be appearing on Harry Allen’s radio show to discuss evolution and creationism. Harry normally covers the music industry (he is formerly a member of the rap group Public Enemy), but he also occasionally does shows about science. He recently had Brain Greene on as his guest, for example. My sparring partner will be Sean Pitman, who runs this website. It should be an interesting discussion, not least because I have very little idea what to expect.
As soon as I finish with that I’ll be hopping onto the LIRR (that’s the Long Island Rail Road) to wander out to Plainview, where I will be speaking that night. My host is the Center for Inquiry-Long Island, and I will once again be speaking about evolution and creationism. At 7:00, to be precise. So, if you live anywhere near there, mark your calendars now!
On February 10, HBO will be airing the documentary Questioning Darwin, about creationism, and about evolution and religion more generally. Here are the two things you need to know about this. First, the film was made by Antony Thomas, who is a very prominent documentary filmmaker. Second, I’m in it! Thomas interviewed me for the film a while back. As I recall, the interview lasted ninety minutes or so, but I do not know how much of that made it into the final cut. Perhaps that’s for the best, since I honestly don’t remember what I said. I have not seen the finished film, but I’m looking forward to it.
Of course, I still do math as well. On February 14, I will be in Chicago for the annual science extravaganza known as the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). The theme of this year’s conference is “Meeting Global Challenges: Discoveries and Innovation.” I am co-organizing, with Laura Taalman (my coauthor on the Big Sudoku Book), a symposium entitled, The Importance of Recreational Mathematics in Solving Practical Problems. The session will be ninety minutes, during which we shall have three speakers. I will start things off with an historical overview of the successes of recreational math. Then Gary McGuire, of University College-Dublin, will discuss his solution to the 17-clue conjecture about Sudoku puzzles. While that is certainly a recreational problem, his work has applications more broadly in theoretical computer science. And then Francis Su of Harvey Mudd College will bat clean-up, by telling us about how the solutions to certain “cake-cutting” problems find applications to real-world questions of fair-division. Should be fun! The competition for sessions is fierce, and proposals for sessions in pure mathematics are rarely accepted, so this is something I’m excited about.
Alas, I will only be at the conference on that Friday. That means I will be missing this session, on Sunday, entitled “Religious Communities, Science, Scientists, and Perceptions: A Comprehensive Survey.” Genie Scott is speaking, and she’s always good, but I suspect I would have some disagreements with some of the other speakers. I will have left the conference by then, but I can’t help noticing that the conference is being held in Jerry Coyne country. Perhaps he’ll be able to spice things up by giving them what-for if the science/religion rhetoric gets too chummy.
The real fun comes up in March. I’ll be off to Atlanta to participate in the Gathering for Gardner. I’ll be doing something-or-other with regard to the book I just edited, for Dover Publications, entitled Four Lives: A Celebration of Raymond Smullyan. Martin Gardner fans tend also to be Raymond Smullyan fans. That’s still far enough in the future that I don’t quite know what I’m doing, but I’m sure it will be super-awesome!
So that’s about it for now. Should be a busy semester.