The origin of equations

ahead of the current

Creation or evolution?

It’s not a question most people associate with the development of mathematics. But the debate exists in the world of numbers and reason.

Are the patterns that comprise mathematics simply a productof human intellect? Does mathematics reflect the physical universe in a manner that is independent of its observation? Is mathematics separable from both the psychological and physical universes?

Penn Integrates Knowledge Professor Robert Ghrist will tackle those questions and others as part of the Penn Science Café lecture series on Tuesday, Dec. 14, from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at MarBar, located on the second floor of the Marathon Grill, 40th and Walnut streets. The Science Café is geared toward a general audience, with leading scientific experts explaining their work in layperson’s terms.

Ghrist is the Andrea Mitchell University Professor of Math and Electoral Systems and Engineering with joint appointments in the School of Engineering and Applied Science and the School of Arts and Sciences. A world-renowned scholar of applied mathematics, Ghrist’s work concentrates on applying mathematical methods to real-world engineering challenges, especially in robotics and wireless sensor networks.

He specializes in topology, a branch of mathematics that provides tools to visualize abstract spaces, such as detecting gaps in security networks or automating robotic movement useful in industry. In 2008, Scientific American named him one of the Top 50 scientists in the nation.

Admission is free, but RSVPs are required. Contact Jacquie Posie by email at or at 215-898-6460. For more information about the Science Café lecture series,

Originally published on November 11, 2010