The Richards Mathematics Lecture Series hosted at Weber State University was initiated by The Franklin and Lisa Richards Endowment.

Franklin Richards, former WSU faculty, began these lectures to help raise awareness of mathematics and how understanding math benefits people’s lives.

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Dr. David Kung plucked strings on his violin to talk about sound waves during his Feb 8 lecture. (Abby Van Ess / The Signpost)

Assistant math professor Mahmud Akelbek worked to organize the latest event in the series.

“Our goal is to let people know that math is accessible and not scary,” Akelbek said.

According to Akelbek, they reached out to local schools and the community for this event.

People ranging from young to old gathered in the Lind Lecture Hall to hear David Kung of St. Mary’s College of Maryland speak about how music is created from math.

“I always thought math and music were separate parts of my life,” Kung said.

But when he started at St. Mary’s College, Kung was encouraged to combine the two disciplines and then speak about the connections.

“When I started digging into the connections, I became increasingly interested in how these seemingly very different disciplines are actually intimately intertwined,” Kung said.

Kung shared ways that mathematics can effectively predict the future of music and sound. Kung then went on to illustrate the concept using rope, PVC tubing, mathematics and his own violin. He spoke about topics such as overtones, resonance and even on energy levels in quantum mechanics.

Stephen Tenreiro, a junior at WSU, attended the event.

“I’m amazed that there is technology that can analyze music,” Tenreiro said. “There’s a formula for everything.”

Kung said that what fascinates him about math is that it has a history of being “unreasonably effective.”

“Time after time, theoretical mathematicians invent complicated theories,” Kung said. “And years later, their work turns out to be needed to solve some real-world problem.”

Kung concluded the evening playing Bach’s “Chaconne,” considered an especially challenging piece.

As a teacher, Kung is always trying to find ways to get students excited by mathematics.

“When I give a lecture like this, I am fortunate to have the opportunity to get math lovers interested in music,” Kung said. “And give music lovers a glimpse of how mathematics informs their world.”

These lectures are held biannually and are open to the public. Interested students can visit http://www.weber.edu/mathematics/Richards_Math_Lecture.html for more information this series and others at WSU.

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