It's All for the Best: Optimization in the History of Science

Start: 09/11/2013 - 4:15pm
End  : 09/11/2013 - 5:15pm


Judith Grabiner, Pitzer college


 Many problems, from optics to economics, can be solved mathematically by finding the highest, the quickest, the shortest the best of something. This has been true from antiquity to the present. Why did people start looking for such explanations, and how did we come to conclude that we could productively do so? Scientific examples will include problems from ancient optics, and more modern questions in optics and classical mechanics, drawing on ideas from Newtons and Leibnizs calculus and from the Euler-Lagrange calculus of variations. A surprising role will also be played by philosophical and theological ideas, including those of Leibniz, Maupertuis, Maclaurin, and Adam Smith.

Davidson Lecture Hall, Claremont McKenna College

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