AWM-MAA Etta Falconer Lecture 2018

Lecturer: Pamela Gorkin, Bucknell University

Ellipses make frequent appearances in our lives: Kepler’s laws of planetary motion involve ellipses and a medical procedure involving kidney stones known as lithotripsy uses them as well. We see ellipses in architecture and in President’s Park South we find a park called simply “The Ellipse.” What properties of the ellipse make it so important? How can we construct an ellipse? We begin with questions like these, providing some unfamiliar answers. Then we study three seemingly unrelated problems in mathematics, chosen from linear algebra, complex analysis, and projective geometry, and we show how the solution to each of these problems relies on finding ellipses.