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.