LEAD, SD— It was an unexpected brush with calculus that sent Travis Kowalski, a young, budding artist, on a lifelong journey to understanding the patterns and beauty of mathematics. Now the interim head of mathematics at South Dakota School of Mines and Technology and award-winning mathematician helps others see the unanticipated ways in which math intersects our daily lives. And this month, Kowalski will help Sanford Lab celebrate Pi Day.
On Thursday, March 11, from 6 to 7 p.m. MT, Kowalski will discuss the many places the number “3.14159265…” has shown up throughout history and culture.
“Pi has popped up in the Bible, in Chinese mythology, the Hindu religion and even in a parody of Edgar Allen Poe’s ‘The Raven,’” Kowalski said. “There are even hidden ways for us mere mortals to learn the digits of pi.”
Kowalski sees math as an art form influenced by countless cultures and 4,000 years of trial and error.
“Math uses symbols that every culture has contributed to: numbers from India, rules of algebra from Islamic nations, symbol sets from Latin—every culture has their hand in the symbols we write down,” Kowalski said. “Not only was math an artistic endeavor, but it was one of the very few artistic endeavors that all of humanity has contributed to.
Last March, Sanford Lab’s Pi Day celebration was canceled due to the emerging COVID-19 pandemic. A year later, the facility is thrilled to invite Kowalski back, this time virtually, to take us on a tour of history and culture through the lens of pi.
Attendees can join this free event via Zoom webinar to answer polls and submit questions for speakers or watch live on Sanford Lab's Facebook page. Webinar space is limited, and early registration is encouraged.
This event is part of Sanford Lab’s Deep Talks lecture series, a monthly series ushering scientific discussions into the public sphere. In the 2020-2021 season, Deep Talks will bring voices from the international scientific community to your home through our virtual format. The Deep Talks lecture series is sponsored by Chuck and Jolene Lichtenwalner, Crow Peak Brewing Company, RCS Construction and Northern Hills Federal Credit Union.
Sanford Lab is operated by the South Dakota Science and Technology Authority (SDSTA) with funding from the Department of Energy's Office of Science. Our mission is to advance world class science and inspire learning across generations. Visit Sanford Lab at www.SanfordLab.org.