Bryden Cais says math makes him feel much better about life.
Cais, a number theorist and assistant professor of mathematics at the University of Arizona, said he is often disappointed in real-life situations when what he optimistically assumes to be true is shown to be otherwise.
“Math is the exact opposite. Whenever your assumptions turn out to be wrong, it’s because the way things actually work is far more beautiful and deeply surprising.”
Conveying that surprising beauty can be a chore. Cais said a handful of people are really good at it — such as Jordan Ellenberg, a math professor at the University of Wisconsin who is speaking Monday at the UA’s Gallagher Theater.
The title of the talk is “How to use math to get rich in the lottery.*”
Note the asterisk (and the grammatical difficulty of dealing with punctuation when an asterisk is involved), which alerts you to a disclaimer: “will not actually help you get rich in the lottery.”
Cais said Ellenberg, who writes the “Do the Math” column for the online magazine Slate, is “a very talented number theorist in an area of pure mathematics.
“The one thing that makes him unique among mathematicians is he’s written a couple of best-selling books.”
Ellenberg’s most recent book, “How Not to Be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking,” contains the tale of a group of MIT math students who figured out how to reliably win money in the Massachusetts lottery.
Lottery rules have since been revised to prevent the students’ stratagem from working. Hence, the asterisk.
Cais said Ellenberg is “a very engaging and highly amusing speaker. I’ve always enjoyed his talks, and this one is being pitched to a very broad audience.”
Ellenberg’s free talk, at 6:30 p.m. in the Gallagher Theater inside the UA Student Union, is the ninth in the Daniel Bartlett Memorial Lecture series. It honors Bartlett, a UA mathematician who died of sudden cardiac failure in 2006.