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The Way the Billiard Ball Bounces

by Joshua Bowman

Year of Award: 2016

Publication Information: Math Horizons, Vol. 22, no. 3, February 2015.

Summary (adapted from the MAA Prizes and Awards booklet for MathFest 2015)After studying how a billiard ball moves on a rectangular table, Bowman describes how a ball would move on various triangular billiard tables: first the three special triangles that tile the plane when reflected across their sides, then a table shaped like an arbitrary triangle. Finally, he gives the reader the impetus to extend the ideas to more complicated planar regions, including regions with curved boundaries. The article is enhanced by many illustrations showing the ideas, and it culminates in an exciting finale that connects everything with the work of two recent Fields Medalists.

About the Author: (From the MathFest 2016 MAA Prizes and Awards Booklet)

Joshua Bowman is an assistant professor of mathematics in the Natural Science Division at Pepperdine University. He received his Ph.D. from Cornell in 2009. His research interests are in geometry, topology, and dynamics. He is the translator of The Scientific Legacy of Poincaré, published by the American Mathematical Society and the London Mathematical Society in 2010. He lives in Los Angeles, following several years of living, teaching, and researching on the East Coast in New York and Massachusetts. His hobbies include theology and music.

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