216: Steven Strogatz | Calculus, Biological Dynamics, And More From His Book “Infinite Powers”

Calculus is a branch of mathematics that speaks to the flow of our society. You might think of derivatives and integrals, but you can also think of it as deconstruction and reconstruction. Professor Steven Strogatz of Cornell University wrote Infinite Powers: How Calculus Reveals the Secrets of the Universe to detail how calculus links with universal dynamics.

Professor Strogatz is the Jacob Gould Schurman Professor of Applied Mathematics at Cornell University. He graduated from Princeton University with a degree in mathematics, attended Trinity College and completed his doctoral work in applied math at Harvard, and then did a postdoctorate at Harvard and Boston University. He then taught at MIT, and then joined Cornell faculty in 1994, where he currently continues to teach.

Some of the items Professor Strogatz has worked on include biology as it relates to math, geometry of supercoiled DNA, sleep-wake cycle dynamics, 3D chemical wave topology, collective behavior of oscillators, and social system structural balance. There is a theme of waves across many of the categories. He has worthwhile papers on these topics, along with co-authoring the 6th most cited physics paper of all time(which is also the 63rd most cited research article of all time), on small-world networks.

Show notes:

  • how Professor Strogatz got to being a researcher and math professor
  • where he attended, and the takeaways that he got at those institutions
  • what small-world networks bring to the table as advantages
  • what similarity worm neural networks have with the power grid of the western United States
  • why Calculus is linked to rules of growth, laws of motion, and more
  • when math can apply in your day-to-day life, and why it is valuable to have a sense of the dynamics you see
  • how calculus is connected to HIV clearance and immune response in the body, through exponential growth curves
  • what math feedback from teachers can do to student’s esteem levels

You can check out on Professor’s Strogatz website, which has all his research articles, or see his book on Amazon. It was great to have him on the show, and connect with someone interested in some of the same topics as myself.