David RichesonTales of Impossibility



“Nothing is impossible!”  While it is comforting to believe this greeting card sentiment — it’s the American dream, after all — there are impossible things.  Ancient Greek geometers and future generations of mathematicians tried and failed to square circles, trisect angles, double cubes, and construct regular polygons using only a compass and straightedge.  Join David Richeson, Professor of Mathematics at Dickinson College and Editor of Math Horizons, to try your hand at some of these unusual geometric construction techniques.  But get ready to fail — after two thousand years, all four of these “problems of antiquity” have been proved to be mathematically impossible! 

There will be two sessions, one at 4:00 p.m. and one at 7:00 p.m. Light refreshments will be served after the 4:00 pm session and at 6:30 pm in advance of the second session.

Math Encounters is a public presentation series celebrating the spectacular world of mathematics, presented by the Simons Foundation and the National Museum of Mathematics.

For further information, call the National Museum of Mathematics at 212-542-0566 or e-mail mathencounters@momath.org.

About the Author

David S. Richeson is professor of mathematics at Dickinson College and editor of Math Horizons. He is the author of Euler’s Gem: The Polyhedron Formula and the Birth of Topology (Princeton). Twitter @divbyzero