Profile: Kevin Knudson
Professor of Mathematics
My current research interests are in the emerging area of computational topology. Recent projects include the analysis of human speech data, democracy data, and education data via persistent homology techniques. I have also done work in discrete Morse theory, developing algorithms to generate discrete Morse functions from point cloud data.
I also have interests in curriculum development and undergraduate education. I served as director of the University of Florida Honors Program for five years and am currently involved in mathematics education initiatives at the university.
NoteStreams By Kevin Knudson
It’s been quite a year for mathematics problems on the internet. In the last few months, three questions have been online everywhere, causing consternation and head-scratching and blowing the minds of adults worldwide as examples of what kids are expected to know these days. As a mathematician, I suppose I should subscribe to the “no such thing as bad publicity” theory, except that problems of this ilk a) usually aren’t that difficult once you get the trick, b) sometimes aren’t even math problems and c) fuel the defeatist “I’m not good at math” fire that pervades American culture. The inability to solve such a problem quickly is certainly not indicative of a person’s overall math skill, nor should it prompt a crisis of confidence about the state of American math aptitude.
John Nash, mathematician and Nobel laureate in economics, died in a taxi accident on May 23; he was 86. His wife, Alicia, was with him and also did not survive the crash. The Nashes were on their way home to Princeton from Norway, where John was honored as a recipient (along with Louis Nirenberg) of this year’s Abel Prize in mathematics. Thanks to A Beautiful Mind, Sylvia Nasar’s chronicle of Nash’s life, and its film adaptation starring Russell Crowe, Nash was one of the few mathematicians well known outside the halls of academia. The general public may remember the story of Nash’s mental illness and eventual recovery from paranoid schizophrenia. But Nash’s influence goes far beyond the Hollywood version of his biography. His colleagues count his mathematical innovations, particularly on noncooperative games (the work that would earn him his Nobel Prize), among the great economic ideas of the 20th century.