Discussion on “The Mathematics Behind Tom Stoppard's Arcadia”
May 18, 2009, 7:00 – 9:00 pm
Mathematical Association of America Carriage House
1781 Church Street, NW
Washington, DC 20036
The American Mathematical Society (AMS) and the Mathematical Association of America (MAA) invite you to participate in a discussion on mathematics and the theatre to be held Monday, May 18, 2009 at 7 pm at the MAA’s Carriage House, Church Street, Washington, DC.
This event is being held in conjunction with the Folger Theatre’s ongoing production of Tom Stoppard’s acclaimed play “Arcadia” (May 5 – June 14, Folger Shakespeare Theatre, Washington, DC)
Please join select Folger Cast Members, Folger Dramaturg Michele Osherow, and Production Mathematics Consultant Manil Suri (University of Maryland Baltimore County) as they discuss the challenges of representing mathematicians – and mathematics – on stage.
Arcadia – In 1809 thirteen-year-old Thomasina Coverly is a child prodigy on the verge of resolving mathematical ambiguities and naively approaching theories on chaos and thermodynamics. She recognizes the inherent limitations of classical geometry, complaining that it behaves as if “the world of forms were nothing but arcs and angles.” It takes modern computing power in the hands of present-day mathematician Valentine Coverly to unlock the “islands of orders” hidden in the algorithm Thomasina scribbled in her notebook, the “patterns making themselves out of nothing.” What the young girl’s algorithm generates are fractals, now recognized as the missing key to describing most natural phenomena: the repeating patterns of a fern leaf, the self-similar swirls of clouds, even weather and stock market fluctuations. Thomasina’s genius goes even further – questioning whether traditional Newtonian determinism (in which life’s mysteries are contained in mathematical equations) might itself be flawed, an idea explicated more than a century and a half later by chaos theory. As Valentine explains, “The future is disorder.”
Arcadia runs May 5 – June 14 at the Folger Theatre, 201 East Capitol Street, SE. For tickets, go to http://www.folger.edu/woSummary.cfm?woid=465#sub2title or phone 202-544-7077.