LogiCON 2013 talks math!

Paul Buckingham is the first of two speakers in the Math Block at LogiCON 2013, which runs from 1:45 pm to 4:00 pm on Sunday May 5th. Paul is a postdoctoral fellow in number theory at the University of Alberta. His research considers the ways symmetry plays a role in our understanding of numbers, a key goal being to spot uniformity in the apparent complexity of numbers. Keen to promote interest in number theory in Alberta, Paul has co-organized a province-wide conference and seminar series in prominent aspects of the subject.

In this hour-long talk, Paul shares his expertise in group theory. Groups come into play whenever you want to string together sequences of reversible operations or instructions. For example, the instructions might be the moves of certain chess pieces on an infinite chess board. Some pieces can go everywhere on the board, given enough moves: the queen, king, rook, and knight. On the other hand, the orbit of the poor bishop, who can only move diagonally, consists of only half the squares. The notion of an orbit — where a sequence of instructions can take you — allows group theorists to find the number of essentially different Sudoku grids and the number of Rubik's Cube configurations, for example. In this talk, you will discover what groups are and how to use them to discover some simple but surprising facts.