Voting in Agreeable Societies

Posted on February 27th, 2008 by

Mathematics Awareness Month Lecture
by Francis Edward Su (Harvey Mudd College)
7:00 PM, May 1st, 2008
Olin Hall, Room 103

When can a majority of voters find common ground, that is, a position they all agree upon? How does the shape of the political spectrum influence the outcome? What does mathematics have to say about how people behave? When mathematical objects have a social interpretation, the associated theorems have social applications. Without assuming any specialized background in mathematics, Prof. Su will give examples of situations where sets model preferences and show how extensions of classical theorems about convex sets can be used in the analysis of voting in “agreeable” societies. His research on this topic was performed in collaboration with undergraduates.

Francis Edward Su is a Professor of Mathematics at Harvey Mudd College, and earned his Ph.D. from Harvard University. His research is in geometric combinatorics and applications to the social sciences, and he has co-authored over 20 papers with undergraduates. He also has a passion for teaching and popularizing mathematics. From the MAA, he received the 2001 Merten M. Hasse Prize for expository writing, the 2004 Henry L. Alder Award for distinguished teaching, and was the 2006 James R.C. Leitzel Lecturer. He also serves on editorial boards of the American Mathematical Monthly and Math Horizons. In his spare time he enjoys working on his “Math Fun Facts” website, which receives nearly 4,000 hits each day.



  1. Yay Francis Su! Great job getting Francis to come and give a talk. I’m jealous and envious. Hope you have a great turn out for the talk.

  2. […] At Francis Su’s lecture this evening the three finalists in the Fibonacci poetry contest read their poems.  Below is the winning poem, followed by the two other finalists.Fibonacci, by Bethany RingdalTheydon’tmarch intime, how Ithought I would find them;these numbers slide, hum and nestlein the pearly curves and coils of a poem in the sun.Untitled, by Erik AlquistVote.Please.Cast withConvictionTo send a messageOf preference or discontent.Though with the plurality you may not be, have heart.Choosing the loser of these contests beats waiting for a probability of 1. Untitled, by Katie O’Bryanguesschoosewho knows?not anchorsnor politicianswho can predict, the oracle?no, tis not the mystic but tis the statistician   […]