Bard College Astronomer Shuo Zhang and Undergraduate Student Rose Xu Discover New X-ray Flares from the Galactic Center Supermassive Black Hole Sgr A*
Bard College Assistant Professor of Physics Shuo Zhang and Bard mathematics and dance major Rose Xu ’23 were invited by the American Astronomical Society (AAS) to present their most recent findings on new x-ray flares from the now inactive supermassive black hole at the center of our Milky Way galaxy. Their talk, “Detection of Seven High-Energy X-ray Flares from the Milky Way’s Supermassive Black Hole,” was presented at the 241st AAS press conference on January 12 in person in Seattle and virtually.
Bard College Astronomer Shuo Zhang and Undergraduate Student Rose Xu Discover New X-ray Flares from the Galactic Center Supermassive Black Hole Sgr A*
Bard College Assistant Professor of Physics Shuo Zhang and Bard mathematics and dance major Rose Xu ’23 were invited by the American Astronomical Society (AAS) to present their most recent findings on new x-ray flares from the now inactive supermassive black hole at the center of our Milky Way galaxy. Their talk, “Detection of Seven High-Energy X-ray Flares from the Milky Way’s Supermassive Black Hole,” was presented at the 241st AAS press conference on Thursday, January 12 from 5:15pm to 6:15pm ET, in person in Seattle and virtually via Zoom andYouTube livestream. For more information about the 241st AAS press conference, click here.
The center of the Milky Way galaxy harbors the nearest supermassive black hole Sgr A* to Earth, with forty million times the mass of the Sun. Although being in an inactive status nowadays, Sgr A* demonstrates mysterious flares almost every single day, which could come from magnetic phenomena. We are sitting in the front row of these cosmic fireworks. Using 2 Ms data from NASA’s NuSTAR X-ray telescope, our math senior Rose Xu, working with Bard physics professor Shuo Zhang, has discovered seven new hard X-ray flares that took place between 2016 and 2022. This new result doubled the current database of bright Sgr A* X-ray flares, and can help to answer long-standing questions in flare physics, such as: What are the physical mechanisms behind Sgr A* flare? Do bright flares and faint flares share the same origin?
Watch the Presentation at the American Astronomical Society Press Conference
“Astronomers are in the exhilarating process of revealing the physical conditions at the vicinity of our own supermassive black hole, which I couldn’t imagine myself being involved in before meeting professor Shuo Zhang. Solving practical problems from a liberal arts perspective is a skill that I am grateful to gain here at Bard College,” said Xu.
The daughter of immigrants from the Dominican Republic, and the first in her family to attend college, Jen Lara grew up in the Corona, Queens, neighborhood of New York City. A mathematics major, Jen is passionate about education and helping more minority women enter STEM fields.
Jen Lara arrived at Bard intending to become a physics major with a future in engineering, but an important part of her Bard education included the realization that other interests were dearer to her heart.
“I saw that my real passion is not in the world of engineering. It doesn’t hold the sparkle for me. I've always been teaching, I have always tutored, I've always worked with nonprofits. I want to work in education in the minority community to see women in STEM [science, technology, engineering, mathematics]. STEM is where I can use my talents and abilities to do what I'm really passionate about, which is helping my community to do better in these subjects.”
So she is majoring in mathematics, and spent time teaching STEM at a nonprofit and at a local middle school. “Everything in my life revolves around education,” she says.
The daughter of immigrants from the Dominican Republic, and the first in her family to attend college, Lara grew up in the Corona, Queens, neighborhood of New York City. Her adviser convinced her to look at Bard, which, she says, was “the only school” that noted her first-generation status could be empowering rather than limiting. “They said, ‘We need to make a plan and find a space for you to be able to accomplish whatever you want to do. We’ll figure it out and we’ll make it happen.’ It was the first time I thought, ‘I don't have to do things by myself.’”
Lara became a peer counselor (PC) at Bard—someone in the residence halls who is trained to deal with many of her fellow residents’ concerns—which helped bring her out of her shell. “My first year I experienced culture shock, and being a PC has made me more social. I like being a support system for students, and the students are just as much a role model for me as I am for them. I take as much as I give. I tell them, ‘Advocate for yourselves; it’s the best thing that you can do.’”
In addition to being a PC and tutoring, she holds two jobs on campus while carrying her academic load. Nevertheless, she says, “I have students in my residence who run clubs and do athletics and their academics—that’s inspiring to me.”
One surprising thing she has learned at Bard is that “I learn very differently from most students. The time and dedication the faculty invested to help me made me realize that there are many different ways to learn. The strong support system makes sure that the way they are teaching matches the way you are learning.”
She wants students who are interested in Bard to know the kind of education she is receiving in Annandale: “You really learn how to be confident in your abilities and not be hard on yourself when things go wrong,” she advises. “You should be hungry, when you get here, to build the community that you want. The fact that Bard gives you the opportunity to do that is not something you’ll find at any other school.”
“At Bard,” she adds, “you are going to do things that you never thought you were capable of doing. And they might make you feel uncomfortable, but the fact that you can create a support system means you can also create the path that you want to take.”
Teaching without an agenda is not something that concerns Kate Belin BA ’04, MAT ’05. “I do have an agenda. I want to see a national shift in how we teach math, what math is, and who has access to it,” Belin said in an interview with Chalkbeat. In their role at the Bronx’s Fannie Lou Hamer Freedom High School, they continue to teach the mathematics of gerrymandering, “an especially relevant topic” today, and one that “will likely continue to be.”
Kate Belin BA ’04, MAT ’05, “Rock Star” Teacher, Talks Teaching Gerrymandering with Chalkbeat
Teaching without an agenda is not something that concerns Kate Belin BA ’04, MAT ’05. “I do have an agenda. I want to see a national shift in how we teach math, what math is, and who has access to it,” Belin said in an interview with Chalkbeat. In their role at the Bronx’s Fannie Lou Hamer Freedom High School, they continue to teach the mathematics of gerrymandering, “an especially relevant topic” today, and one that “will likely continue to be.” A winner of the 2021 Math for America (MƒA) Muller Award for Professional Influence in Education, Belin says their belief in the power of education was developed while at Bard, both as an undergraduate and graduate student. “I learned in college that mathematics was about creativity, patterns, problem-solving, and many more things that aren’t necessarily taught in K-12 school,” they said. “The master’s program at Bard College gave me hope that it was possible to bring more real mathematics into schools and that more students might fall in love with it, too.”
Professor Japheth Wood Awarded the American Mathematical Society’s Epsilon Award for the Third Time
For the third time, the American Mathematical Society has awarded Japheth Wood, director of quantitative literacy and continuing associate professor of mathematics, and the Creative and Analytical Math Programs (CAMP) of the Bard Math Circle the Epsilon Award. The award aids and promotes programs that “support and nurture mathematically talented youth in the United States,” funding existing summer programs proven to reach and support high school students. CAMP will return to an in-person format this year and will serve local and regional middle school students, with a staff that includes Bard alumni/ae and current students in mathematics and computer science.
High School Mathematics Teacher and Bard Alumna Kate Belin Wins 2021 Math for America Muller Award
Kate Belin BA ’04, MAT ’05, who teaches at Fannie Lou Hamer Freedom High School in the Bronx, is one of two winners of the 2021 Math for America (MƒA) Muller Award for Professional Influence in Education. This honor is given to two New York City public school teachers who, during their tenure as MƒA Master Teachers, have influenced the teaching profession in exceptional ways.
“Belin brings a creative approach to pedagogy and has dramatically improved math education at their school and beyond. She is being recognized for bringing her deep understanding of mathematics to all students and taking a leadership role to improve education and educational equity everywhere and for everyone,” writes MƒA.
“I am beyond grateful to MƒA for this recognition and for providing a space for teachers to come together as learners and leaders. This award also recognizes the work of the entire Fannie Lou community which has always understood that teaching is political,” said Belin. “We aren’t simply teaching subjects. We are teaching to fight injustices. Our job is to be activists and organizers in collaboration with our students—to mobilize youth for any issues that exist in their community, country, or world, and work together to make it better.”
Belin was recognized for her impact on the teaching profession and awarded $20,000 during a virtual MƒA award ceremony on Monday, October 18. In addition, $5,000 was awarded to the school or organization of their nominator. Belin was nominated by representatives from the Fannie Lou Hamer Freedom High School.
Kate Belin has taught mathematics at Fannie Lou Hamer Freedom High School for the past 17 years, transforming the mathematics curriculum of the school and mentoring student teachers. She was a recipient of the 2011 Sloan Award for Excellence in Teaching Science in Mathematics and was a Fulbright Distinguished Awards Teaching Fellow to Botswana in 2016. Belin earned their B.A. in Mathematics and M.A.T. at Bard College and has been an adjunct professor at City College of New York, Bard College, and the Bard Prison Initiative.
Professor Lauren L. Rose Selected as Association for Women in Mathematics 2022 Fellow
Associate Professor of Mathematics Lauren L. Rose has been selected as one of 13 scholars to join the Fifth Class of Association for Women in Mathematics (AWM) Fellows. These individuals are extraordinary researchers, mentors, and educators whose commitment to supporting and growing women across the mathematical sciences is praised by their students and colleagues.
Rose is being honored: “For broad efforts in the professional development of women in mathematics, especially undergraduate women; for her commitment to involving people from diverse communities in mathematics, through Math Circles and outreach in prisons; and for her creative contributions to the AWM including the We Speak Series and the Card Project,” states the AWM committee.
“I am very happy to announce the 2022 list of new AWM Fellows. We recognize these individuals for their exceptional dedication to increasing the success and visibility of women in mathematics,” wrote Kathryn Leonard, AWM President. The AWM 2022 Fellows will be recognized during the AWM reception held in January.
The Executive Committee of the Association for Women in Mathematics established the AWM Fellows Program to recognize individuals who have demonstrated a sustained commitment to the support and advancement of women in the mathematical sciences. The Fellows epitomize the mission of the AWM, which is to promote equitable opportunities and support for women and girls in the mathematical sciences.
Bard Professor Japheth Wood Receives 2021 MAA Award for Top Expository Mathematical Writing
Japheth Wood, director of quantitative literacy and continuing associate professor of mathematics at Bard College, is recognized for his article “Chords of an Ellipse, Lucas Polynomials, and Cubic Equations,” coauthored by Ben Blum-Smith and published by the American Mathematical Monthly. “We are thrilled to be recognized for this honor, and to now have our names associated with Paul Halmos and Lester Ford, as well as the long list of other excellent expositors who have been so lauded,” said Wood and Blum-Smith.
American Mathematical Society Recognizes Bard Math Circle’s CAMP Program and Its Founder, Professor Japheth Wood
The Bard Math Circle’s Creative and Analytical Math Program (CAMP) and its founder, professor Japheth Wood, have been recognized with a 2020 Epsilon Award for Young Scholars Programs. The Epsilon Awards, given annually by the American Mathematical Society, support some of the most prestigious summer math enrichment programs in the United States.
CAMP is not “summer camp.” It is a nonresidential academic program for middle school students that features mathematics in a creative learning environment. CAMP started in August 2014 with initial funding from the Dolciani Math Enrichment Grant Program, and it has grown to become a popular late-summer treat for math kids in the Mid-Hudson Valley and beyond. Experienced educators and undergraduate math majors lead classes and activities that emphasize hands-on math, teamwork, and outside-the-box thinking.
This summer, CAMP was held online for the first time. During the first week in August, 49 middle schoolers and a staff of 15—including seven Bard math and computer science majors and two Bard math alumnae—got together via Zoom. “Since cyberspace shortened the distance between us, the Bard Math Circle received numerous applications from around the country,” says Wood. “We could see students’ excitement over running into old friends and connecting with new CAMPers in Zoom classrooms.”
This year’s CAMP theme was cryptography. Students explored cipher encryption (using a cipher wheel like the one at right), created artworks with encoded messages, made cryptograms, and more.
“Though [CAMP] wasn’t around during my student days at Bard, an amazing community has developed since,” says Bard alumna and CAMP senior instructor Erin Toliver ’00. “I love seeing the look on a student’s face when they’ve discovered a new pattern, found a different perspective, or made a new connection for a deeper understanding of this glorious world of mathematics.”
Bard Assistant Professor of Mathematics Matthew Junge Talks with WAMC about National Science Foundation RAPID Grant to Study COVID-19 Forecasting Models
“What’s really distinguishing [our study} from a lot of the studies that are being quoted by the national press . . . and the Administration is that we look at the local connections inside of communities, and those are usually ignored by bigger studies,” Junge tells WAMC’s Hudson Valley Bureau Chief Allison Dunne. “Our study’s taking this opposite perspective of really finally modelling person-to-person connections that come up in our day-to-day lives, like who we socialize with, where we work, connections of that sort, and we ask how the disease spreads in this sort of zoomed-in picture.”
Wednesday, April 5, 2023 Karen Lange, Wellesley College RKC 11112:00 pm – 1:00 pm EDT/GMT-4 You can make a simple family tree by starting with a person at the root and then adding two branches for her parents, and then adding two branches for the parents of each of her two parents, and so on. Such a family tree is an example of a binary tree because each level of the tree has at most two branches. We'll see that every binary tree with infinitely many nodes has an infinite path; this result is called Weak Kőnig's Lemma. But just because we know a path exists, doesn't mean we can find it. Given Weak Kőnig's Lemma, it's natural to ask whether we can compute a path through a given binary tree with infinitely many nodes. It turns out the answer to this "Path Problem" is "no", so we say that the problem is not "computable". But then what exactly is the computational power of this Path Problem? Using the Path Problem as a test case, we will explore the key ideas behind taking a "computable" perspective on mathematics (over an "existence" one) and describe an approach for measuring the computational power of mathematical problems. We'll see that the computational power of problems varies widely and studying problems' power helps to illuminate what really makes problems "tick". This talk will highlight ideas from graph theory, theoretical computer science, and logic, but no background in any of these subjects is necessary.
12:00 pm – 1:00 pm EDT/GMT-4 RKC 111
Wednesday, April 12, 2023 Alan Thompson, Loughborough University RKC 11112:00 pm – 1:00 pm EDT/GMT-4 A pseudolattice is a (multidimensional) grid of points, equipped with a function that takes two points from the grid and returns an integer. A simple example would be the grid of points (x,y) in the plane with integer coordinates x and y, along with the dot product which takes two such points (a,b) and (c,d) and returns the integer ac+bd. I begin with a gentle introduction to the theory of pseudolattices, before presenting two settings in which they show up in geometry. The first describes configurations of points and curves on surfaces, whilst the second encodes the geometry of families of tori over a disc. Interestingly, despite the fact that the two settings seem unrelated, the pseudolattices that show up in each setting are identical. This is an example of the general phenomenon of "mirror symmetry," first discovered by theoretical physicists, which says that many geometric objects which seem to be unrelated nonetheless share fascinating properties.
12:00 pm – 1:00 pm EDT/GMT-4 RKC 111
Friday, April 28, 2023 John L. Bell, Western University Olin 20412:00 pm – 1:00 pm EDT/GMT-4 The concept of the continuum is one of the oldest in philosophy and mathematics. A continuum is conceived of as a continuous entity possessing no gaps or interruptions. We commonly suppose that space, time and motion are continua. The continuum concept was first systematically investigated by Aristotle c. 350 B.C. His major conclusion was that a continuum cannot be reduced to a discrete entity such as a collection of points or numbers. In the 17th century Leibniz’s struggle to understand the continuum led him to term it a labyrinth. In modern times mathematicians have formulated a set-theoretic, or “arithmetic” account of the continuum in discrete terms, although certain important thinkers, such as Brentano, Weyl and Brouwer rejected this formulation, upholding to Aristotle’s view that continua cannot be reduced to discreteness.
Closely allied to the continuum concept is that of the infinitely small, or infinitesimal. Traditionally, an infinitesimal has been conceived of, geometrically, as a part of a continuous curve so small that it may be regarded as “straight”, or, numerically, as a “number” so small that, while not coinciding with zero, is smaller than any finite nonzero number. The development of the differential calculus from the 17th century until the 19th century was based on these concepts.
In my talk I shall present a historical survey of these ideas.
Rylan Gajek-Leonard, '16, Union College RKC 11112:00 pm – 1:00 pm EDT/GMT-4 We all have an intuitive notion of 'distance' between two numbers. For example, we might say that the distance between the numbers 3 and 5 is 2, and the distance between -5 and 1 is 6. But what do we really mean by 'distance'? Are there other ways to measure numbers? It turns out that the answer is yes: for every prime number p, there is a way to measure numbers in terms of their divisibility by p. In doing this, we are led to the world of "p-adic numbers", a strange place where all triangles are isosceles and where every point in a circle is its center. The theory of p-adic numbers permeates nearly all aspects of modern number theory. In this talk, we will define and gain intuition for the p-adic numbers and see some of their applications to problems in number theory.
Rylan completed his bachelor's degree in mathematics and music performance at Bard College, where he was also a cellist in the conservatory. He obtained a master's degree from the University of Cambridge, where he also performed with the Cambridge Philharmonic, and a PhD from UMass Amherst. Rylan currently teaches at Union College in Schenectady, New York. His research is in algebraic number theory and arithmetic geometry.
Wednesday, March 8, 2023
James Marshall, Sarah Lawrence College RKC 11112:00 pm – 1:00 pm EST/GMT-5 Since the 1920s, physicists and philosophers have been trying to understand the strangeness of the subatomic world as revealed by quantum theory, but it wasn't until the 1980s that computer scientists first began to suspect that this strangeness might represent a source of immense computational power. This realization was soon followed by key theoretical advances, including the discovery of algorithms that harness the quantum phenomena of superposition and entanglement, enabling quantum computers in principle to solve certain problems far more efficiently than any conventional computer. Around the same time, researchers built the first working quantum computers, albeit on a very small scale. Today the multidisciplinary field of quantum computing lies at the intersection of computer science, mathematics, and physics, and is one of the most fascinating areas in science, with potentially far-reaching consequences for the future. In this talk I will give an overview of the basic mathematical ideas behind quantum computing, and use them to illustrate two particularly interesting results: the quantum search algorithm, and quantum teleportation.
Wednesday, March 1, 2023
Alejandro Morales, University of Massachusetts RKC 11112:00 pm – 1:00 pm EST/GMT-5 Flow polytopes are an important class of polytopes in combinatorics whose lattice points and volumes have interesting properties and relations to other parts of geometric and algebraic combinatorics. These polytopes were recently related to (multiplex) juggling sequences of Butler, Graham, and Chung. The Chan-Robbins-Yuen (CRY) polytope is a flow polytope with normalized volume equal to the product of consecutive Catalan numbers, one of the most well-known sequences in combinatorics. Zeilberger proved this by evaluating the Morris constant term identity, but no combinatorial proof is known. In this talk we will talk about the connection between juggling and (flow) polytopes and introduce a new refinement of the Morris identity with combinatorial interpretations both in terms of lattice points and volumes of flow polytopes.
Alejandro Morales is originally from Colombia and got his B.Math. from the University of Waterloo and a Ph.D. from MIT, working with Professor Alexander Postnikov. After postdocs at Université du Québec à Montréal and UCLA, he started a tenure-track position at UMass, Amherst where he is part of the Discrete Mathematics group. Morales works in enumerative and algebraic combinatorics and uses bijections, symmetric functions, and tools from algebra to study several objects including linearizations of posets, polytopes associated to graphs, and factorizations of permutations. Morales' research is funded by grants of the National Science Foundation and is a handling Editor of the mathematician owned journal Combinatorial Theory. You can see videos, slides, code, and conjectures of the work of Morales here: ahmorales.combinatoria.co
Wednesday, February 15, 2023
Anca Radulescu, SUNY New Paltz RKC 11112:00 pm – 1:00 pm EST/GMT-5
Wednesday, February 8, 2023
Tifin Calcagni, The Global Math Circle RKC 11112:00 pm – 1:00 pm EST/GMT-5 Magic squares are mathematical structures that have been known since ancient times; most likely many of their properties are still left undiscovered. Magic squares are an ideal topic for mathematical exploration and discovery with participants of all levels. Since 2020, Global Math Circle has carried out this activity with various groups. This topic was the foundation of a whole circle project in Colombia. We made five versions in which children of the United States 2020-I, 2022-II, Colombia 2020-I (urban online), Colombia/Peru 2021-II (urban online), 2022-II Colombia (Rural Face-to-face). Exploration of magic squares lead to discussions ranging from basic arithmetic, combinatorics, geometry, vector spaces, and more. We want to show you how to use magic squares as a springboard topic to get at larger mathematical explorations with students of diverse backgrounds and readiness levels.
Friday, February 3, 2023
Brandon Look, University of Kentucky Olin 20412:00 pm – 1:00 pm EST/GMT-5 In his book on Leibniz's philosophy, Bertrand Russell writes that his first reaction to Leibniz's metaphysics was to think of it as "a kind of fantastic fairy tale, coherent perhaps, but wholly arbitrary." Upon further study, though, he saw that "this seemingly fantastic system could be deduced from a few simple premises, which, but for the conclusions which Leibniz had drawn from them, many, if not most, philosophers would have been willing to admit." While Russell's logicist interpretation of Leibniz has, to a degree, fallen out of favor among Leibniz scholars, I want to show that there is something right about reading Leibniz this way. In my talk, then, I shall present the core premises of Leibniz's thought and show how his metaphysics follows from them.