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Calculus Is Going to the Dogs

by Vidya Sury July 24, 2008 0 comment

Here’s a very interesting snippet I received from
Dr B Sury in the mail. (Who’s Dr Sury, then?
I am married to him :-D)

Calculus Is Going to the Dogs
July 21, 2008

This year’s MathFest will welcome many respected
mathematicians as well as some up-and-coming math
prodigies. But the most widely recognized attendee at
the meeting may well be a dog. Tim Pennings and his
Welsh corgi Elvis will demonstrate the canine’s ability
to do calculus at an MAA Special Session titled
“Do Dogs Know Calculus? Bifurcations at the Beach”
on Saturday, August 2 at 2 p.m.

While at the beach five years ago, Pennings was simply
playing catch with Elvis when he realized that his dog
was taking the shortest possible route to the ball each
time. This observation reminded Pennings of a
first-year calculus problem that he often used and
got him thinking about Elvis’ ability to do math.

A short time later, Elvis showed off his calculus skills
again when he began doing bifurcations. When Pennings
would stand in the water with Elvis and throw the ball,
the dog would decide whether it was faster to swim all
the way to it, or to swim to shore, then run down
the beach before jumping back in the water after the ball.
Pennings wrote papers on each of Elvis’ calculus adventures
at the beach, and will discuss them in Madison.

Tim Pennings is a Professor of Mathematics at Hope
College whose research interests include infinity and
dynamical systems. Elvis was awarded an honorary degree
from Hope College in 2005 and has been featured on
ABC News, CNN, and BBC News.

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