Place: 4274 Chamberlin (Refreshments will be served)
Speaker: Joel Robbin, UW Department of Mathematics
Abstract: Catastrophe theory is a method for describing the evolution of forms in nature. It was discovered by RenA`e Thom in the 1960aEuroTMs. Thom expounded the philosophy behind the theory in his 1972 book Structural stability and morphogenesis. Catastrophe theory is particularly applicable where gradually changing forces produce sudden effects. The applications of catastrophe theory in classical physics (or more generally in any subject governed by a aEuro~minimization principleaEuroTM) are noncontroversial and help us understand what diverse models have in common. The applications of the theory in the social and biological sciences have met with some resistance. (I donaEuroTMt know if any workers in these areas have been influenced by ThomaEuroTMs ideas.) In this talk I will discuss three examples: ZeemanaEuroTMs toy (the aEurooecatastrophe machineaEuro), light caustics, and ZeemanaEuroTMs explanation of stock market booms and busts.
The constantly evolving slides for this talk are available on my website.