Friday Banquet Speaker
David Richeson, Dickinson College, on "Tales of Impossibility"
About the Talk
"Nothing is impossible!" It is comforting to believe this greeting card sentiment; it is the American dream. Yet there are impossible things, and it is possible to prove that they are so. In this talk, David will look at some of the most famous impossibility theorems—the so-called "problems of antiquity." The ancient Greek geometers and future generations of mathematicians tried and failed to square circles, trisect angles, double cubes, and construct regular polygons using only a compass and straightedge. It took 2,000 years to prove conclusively that all 4 of these are mathematically impossible.
About the Speaker
David Richeson was an undergraduate at Hamilton College, received his PhD from Northwestern University, and had a post-doc at Michigan State University. He is now a professor of mathematics at Dickinson College. He was editor of Math Horizons from 2014 to 2019. He is interested in a wide range of mathematics including topology, dynamical systems, geometry, the history of mathematics, recreational mathematics, and expository mathematical writing. His 2010 book Euler's Gem: The Polyhedron Formula and the Birth of Topology received the MAA's Euler Book Prize and was re-released last summer in the Princeton Science Library series. His new book, Tales of Impossibility: The 2000-Year Quest to Solve the Mathematical Problems of Antiquity was published by Princeton University Press last fall.