Transferrific Day

Transferrific Day was January 22, 2010 for the Williams Math/Stat department. For a number of years we have taken a day (or  an afternoon) in January to learn together some area of math. This year we used as a springboard David Ruelle’s Dynamical Zeta Functions and Transfer Operators (Notices AMS Sept 2002). In previous years we have had the Enumerative Orgy (about string theory and enumerative geometry), the Szemeredi  Festival (where we went through Terry Tao’s The Dichotomy between Structure and Randomness, Arithmetic Progression, and the Primes), Poincairpolooza (about the proof of the Poincaire Conjecture) and Stochastic Fantastic Day (where used David Mumford’s Age of Stochasticity to talk about the nature of a random variable).

Steve Miller started us off with a bit about the classical Riemann Zeta Function.  Next I spoke about dynamical zeta functions and then about the basics of the Thermodynamic Formalism. This led into Mihai Stoicui’s talk on the transfer operator and then on how the transfer operator shows up in the Ising model.  Frank Morgan then gave a brief talk about defining determinants and traces for operators.  Stewart Johnson finished the day with work of  Milnor and Thurston on Kneading theory.  Thus we spent the afternoon ranging from number theory and the distribution of primes through the basics of statistical mechanics, on to functional analysis, ending with dynamical systems.

Almost all math faculty attended, plus a number of students.

In order for such a day to work, people have to be willing to talk about math that they do not know a lot about.  Luckily at Williams. most of us are willing to potentially look foolish in front of our colleagues, which gives us the confidence to “work without a net”, leading in turn to no one looking foolish at all.  These days are also a great opportunity for us to talk math together, which in general is not that easy, as most of us do our research is in quite different fields.

Of course, the main reason we do this is that it is enjoyable.

See the archived news post: It was Transferrific January 22.