Pushing math to the limit

June 11th, 2012 by Matt Collette
You may not have taken a math class for many years, but you prob­ably remember the equa­tion “y = mx + b.” If pressed, you could prob­ably recall the qua­dratic equa­tion. And you might know that the square root of neg­a­tive one is an imag­i­nary number.

For most of the adult pop­u­la­tion — including scholars with advanced degrees — algebra exists in the deep recesses of the mind. It might reveal itself at the super­market or the gas sta­tion, a tool used by the mod­er­ately math­e­mat­i­cally inclined to figure out the best deal on chips and salsa for the Super Bowl party or the right time to fuel up before a road trip.

North­eastern math­e­matics pro­fessor Jerzy Weyman doesn’t do that kind of algebra.

Instead, he focuses his atten­tion on one of the fur­thest reaches of math­e­matics called alge­braic cobor­dism theory. Cobor­dism explores a variety of higher-​​dimensional objects, pushing math’s limits far beyond our per­cep­tion or under­standing of the phys­ical world.

Weyman is cur­rently in Essen, Ger­many, where is con­ducting math­e­mat­ical research with Marc Levine, a former North­eastern col­league and cur­rent fac­ulty member at the Uni­ver­sität Duisburg-​​Essen. Levine spon­sored Weyman’s appli­ca­tion to become a Hum­boldt fellow and is hosting his 12-​​month stay in Ger­many, which will be spread over the next three summers.

The pres­ti­gious award is spon­sored by the German gov­ern­ment and the Alexander van Hum­boldt Foun­da­tion to bring tal­ented for­eign scholars to the country’s top uni­ver­si­ties and research institutions.

“This gives me the freedom to study a wide range of topics without all the dis­trac­tions that come from being on campus,” Weyman said. “So now I can focus on my stu­dents during the aca­d­emic year and use the sum­mers to truly focus on my research.”

Provided by Northeastern University

This Phys.org Science News Wire page contains a press release issued by an organization mentioned above and is provided to you “as is” with little or no review from Phys.Org staff.

More news stories

Chattanooga touts transformation into Gig City

A city once infamous for the smoke-belching foundries that blanketed its buildings and streets with a heavy layer of soot is turning to lightning-fast Internet speeds to try to transform itself into a vibrant ...

Sony's PlayStation 'gradually coming back'

Sony was still struggling Saturday to fully restore its online PlayStation system, three days after the Christmas day hack that also hit Microsoft's Xbox, reporting that services were "gradually coming back."

Uber broke Indian financial rules: central bank chief

India's central bank chief lashed out at Uber, already under fire over the alleged rape of a passenger, saying the US taxi-hailing firm violated the country's financial regulations by using an overseas payment ...

N. Korea suffers another Internet shutdown

North Korea suffered an Internet shutdown for at least two hours on Saturday, Chinese state-media and cyber experts said, after Pyongyang blamed Washington for an online blackout earlier this week.

Keep dogs and cats safe during winter

(HealthDay)—Winter can be tough on dogs and cats, but there are a number of safe and effective ways you can help them get through the cold season, an expert says.

Methane is leaking from permafrost offshore Siberia

Yamal Peninsula in Siberia has recently become world famous. Spectacular sinkholes, appeared as out of nowhere in the permafrost of the area, sparking the speculations of significant release of greenhouse ...

Finding faster-than-light particles by weighing them

In a new paper accepted by the journal Astroparticle Physics, Robert Ehrlich, a recently retired physicist from George Mason University, claims that the neutrino is very likely a tachyon or faster-than-light par ...