by William Biersack

It isn’t uncommon to hear a student at any given school say, “I’m never going to use this again,” when talking about a subject such as math. While it is true that some people go on to have successful careers without having to perform anything other than basic math, math plays a significant role in human life. There have been many breakthroughs in defining human thought and social patterns in formulas and equations, which have been used to predict human actions, catch serial killers, and discover the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.

On Thursday, February 7, 2013, Curtin Memorial Library hosted the Mount’s latest iROC (Investigating Research On Campus) seminar, which further investigated these breakthroughs. Zachary Kudlak, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Mathematics presented “An Introduction to Ramsey Theory: Using Math to Track Who Knows Who & Who Likes What,” which aims at mathematically defining the social patterns made by humans each day.

According to Dr. Kudlak, Ramsey Theory deals with patterns that appear when certain conditions are in place. Suppose that any two random people are either acquaintances or complete strangers. In his presentation, Kudlak showed how in any group of at least six people, there must be a group of three or more people that are either all friends or all strangers. This theory goes on to describe the trends in larger and more complex groups. However, as relationships become more complex, it is also harder to define it mathematically. Dr. Kudlak claims that the field of Ramsey Theory is still growing and there are still many discoveries to be made.

At the conclusion of the presentation, one of the Curtin Librarians, Evangela Oates, commented, “I think the presentation was excellent…it’s nice for them to explain key concepts in an elementary way, so the person that is not good at math can kinda get a grasp.”

Kevin Papageorge, a Mount Senior, added, “The presentation really further inspired me to go into the field of mathematics…it’s still interesting to look into problems that we still don’t know the answer to, even with all the amazing technology of our time.”

The next time you think your time and efforts might be going to waste in math class, think of all the ways that they could be benefiting you, as seen with the Ramsey Theory.