The Turfe Lecture is a series of visits by distinguished mathematicians, made possible by a generous donation by Al Turfe, lecturer in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics, and from donations to the UM-Dearborn Mathematics Support Fund.

2020 Turfe Lecture: This presentation has been postponed until later in the year.

Mathematician Steve Butler presents:

An Introduction to the Mathematics of Juggling

Juggling and mathematics have both been done for thousands of years, but the mathematics of juggling is a relatively new combination that dates back a few decades and looks at using the tools of mathematics to analyze, connect, and count various juggling patterns.  We will introduce some of the basic results related to the mathematics of juggling with a particular emphasis at looking at the various methods used to describe juggling patterns.  A few “practical” applications will also be demonstrated.

Dr. Steven Butler is an associate professor and the Barbara J. Janson Professor in the Department of Mathematics at Iowa State University. His primary mathematical interests are spectral graph theory, enumerative combinatorics, mathematics of juggling, discrete geometry, and generally mathematics of fun things.


More information

Get directions to University of Michigan-Dearborn

For further information about the lecture series, contact the Department of Mathematics and Statistics:  313-593-5414.

The University of Michigan-Dearborn does not necessarily endorse speakers’ views.


Previous Turfe Lectures

2018 (October) Lecture by Oscar E. Fernandez

The Mathematics of Happiness

Social scientists have identified three top contributors to happiness: strong and close relationships, a healthy lifestyle that includes good nutrition and enough exercise, and of course, healthy finances. These dimensions of our lives have one thing in common you may not have realized: mathematics. In this talk we will discuss the hidden mathematics behind health, wealth, and love. In the process we will discover that the mathematics we learned in high school - including facts about lines and their slopes- is all that we will need to understand the fundamentals of nutrition, personal finances, and love. And once we “mathematize” these building blocks of happiness, we will realize that the equations that result not only describe health, wealth, and love, we can use them to help us optimize happiness.

Dr. Fernandez is an associate professor of mathematics and faculty director of the Pforzheimer Learning and Teaching Center at Wellesley College.

2018 (April) Lecture by Eugenia Cheng

How to Bake Pi: Making abstract mathematics palatable!

Why does mathematics inspire love in some people and fear in others?  Why do some people think mathematics is important for everyone while others think it is a collection of gibberish touching little of the world beyond the brains of some rare geniuses?  Why do some think it is a creative art akin to poetry and music, while others think it is a boring tool for producing answers?  In this talk, Dr. Cheng will present mathematics as a way of thinking, and not just about numbers.  She will use a variety of unexpectedly connected examples including music, juggling and baking, as in the title of her recent book.  Her aim is to show that math can be made fun, intriguing and relevant for people of all ages, by means of hand-on activities, examples that everyone can relate to, and peculiar anecdotes. 

Dr. Cheng will present surprisingly high level mathematics including some advanced abstract algebra usually only seen by math undergraduates or Ph.D. students, yet show how to make it accessible even to children.  Her message is relevant to those who wish to spread their love of math, as well as those who wish to overcome their fear of it.  The talk will be accessible to all, including maths-loving children as young as eight and maybe younger. There will be a distinct emphasis on edible examples.

Eugenia Cheng is a mathematician and concert pianist. She is Scientist In Residence at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and won tenure at the University of Sheffield, UK. She has previously taught at the universities of Cambridge, Chicago and Nice and holds a Ph.D. in pure mathematics from the University of Cambridge. Alongside her research in Category Theory and undergraduate teaching her aim is to rid the world of "math phobia." Eugenia was an early pioneer of math on YouTube and her videos have been viewed over 10 million times to date. She has also assisted with mathematics in elementary, middle and high schools for 20 years. Her first popular math book "How to Bake Pi" was featured on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert, and "Beyond Infinity" was shortlisted for the Royal Society Science Book Prize 2017. She also writes the Everyday Math column for the Wall Street Journal, and recently completely her first mathematical art commission, for Hotel EMC2 in Chicago. She is the founder of the Liederstube, an intimate oasis for art song based in Chicago. Her next book, "The Art of Logic in an Illogical World" is due out in 2018.

2017 Lecture by Art Benjamin

Art Benjamin: Mathemagician

Dr. Benjamin, Magician and Professor of Mathematics at Harvey Mudd College, has combined his two loves to create a dynamic presentation, where he demonstrates and explains his secrets for performing rapid mental calculations faster than a calculator. He has presented his high energy talk for thousands of groups throughout the world. Reader’s Digest calls him “America’s Best Math Whiz.”

2016 Lecture by David Kung

Harmonious Equations: A Mathematical Exploration of Music, presented by Dr. David Kung, Professor of Mathematics, St. Mary’s College of Maryland.

Mathematics and music seem to come from different spheres (arts and sciences), yet they share an amazing array of commonalities. We will explore these connections by examining the musical experience from a mathematical perspective. Throughout the talk, mathematical concepts will come to life with musical examples played by the speaker, an amateur violinist.

2015 Lecture by Alexander Powell

Algorithms for analog-to-digital conversion presented by Dr. Alexander Powell, Associate Professor and Vice Chair of Mathematics, Vanderbilt University.

Analog-to-digital (A/D) conversion is the process that allows a digital device (such as an iPhone) to capture, transmit, and store analog signals (such as video or audio). This talk will address mathematical aspects of the analog-to-digital conversion process in the settings of frame theory and compressed sensing.

2014 Lecture by Stephen DeBacker

Plato, Diophantus, and Euclid: Some Connections Between Geometry and Number Theory presented by Dr. Stephen DeBacker, Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of Mathematics, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

Professor DeBacker is the recipient of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education’s award as the 2012 Michigan Professor of the Year.

His talk will cover the exploration of rational right triangles, the existence of various platonic solids, and the connections between these objects and number theory.

2013 Lecture by Colin Adams

Blown Away: What Knot to Do When Sailing presented by Dr. Colin Adams, Thomas T. Read Professor of Mathematics, Williams College.


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