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College to host talks on constellations, fourth dimension

MONMOUTH, Ill. – A pair of upcoming talks at Monmouth College will deal with the magic of the stars and the magic of mathematics.

In celebration of International Archaeology Day, Visiting Assistant Professor of Classics Jennifer Martinez-Morales will present a lecture on the “Archaeology of the Stars” at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 21 in the Pattee Auditorium, which is located on the lower level of the Center for Science and Business. Then at 7 p.m. Oct. 23, mathematician Paul Humke will present a lecture on visualizing the fourth dimension.

Both talks are free and open to the public.

In her Oct. 21 talk, Martinez-Morales will explore how ancient Greek and Roman civilizations interacted with the night sky. It will be followed by an observation session in the College’s Adolphson Observatory, also located in the Center for Science and Business.

The International Archaeology Day lecture is presented by the Archaeological Institute of America Western Illinois Society and the College’s Department of Classics, in collaboration with the Physics Department.

Humke, who is a mathematics professor at St. Olaf College, will present a lecture Oct. 23 on visualizing the fourth dimension.

Titled “A Voyager from the Fourth Dimension,” the lecture is for a general audience, said Monmouth Assistant Professor of Mathematics and Computer Science Trevor Richards, whose department is sponsoring the event.

“This talk will be accessible and entertaining for those with little or no mathematical background,” said Richards.

Richards explained that the physical universe we can perceive “has three dimensions. ... we can move left or right, back or forth, up or down, or some combination of these three.

“A fourth dimension could be thought of as any fundamentally different quantity (or direction) which is not a combination of the other three, such as time, color, sound or some entirely new physical direction which we can neither move in nor perceive,” he said.

Added Humke: “When speaking about the fourth dimension, I’m invariably asked, ‘How do you know this is what the fourth dimension really looks like?’ My answer is, ‘I know because my students and I used the computer to make a four-dimensional world and then used the monitor as a window to view it.

“There is nothing magical or new in what we did – it is only elementary linear algebra – but there is a bit of magic in what you’ll see.”

Humke joined the St. Olaf faculty in 1980 after a nine-year stint at Western Illinois University. He served as the North American Director of the Budapest Semesters in Mathematics program for nearly 25 years and continued as CEO and president of the parent corporation, Pro Mathematica Arte, until last July.

An active real analyst, Humke is editor-in-chief of the research journal Real Analysis Exchange and has published extensively on classical real analysis, set theory, measure theory and dynamical systems, as well as articles on curricular topics ranging from calculus reform to the Budapest Semesters in Mathematics program.