2009-2010 Baylor Lecture Series in Mathematics


Michael BerrySir Michael Berry, Melville Wills Professor of Physics at the University of Bristol (England), was the third speaker in our annual Baylor Lecture Series in Mathematics. Professor Berry visited Baylor University from September 15-20, 2009. The titles and abstacts of his lectures are given below.

He is famous among other things for the Berry phase, a phenomenon observed in quantum mechanics and optics. He specializes in semiclassical physics (asymptotic physics, quantum chaos) applied to wave phenomena in quantum mechanics and other areas such as optics.

Professor Berry received his undergraduate degree from the University of Exeter in 1962 and his Ph.D. degree in theoretical physics from St. Andrews in 1965. Since 1967, he has been at the University of Bristol, first as a postdoctoral fellow, then Lecturer and then Reader before becoming Professor in 1979.

Among his many honors, Professor Berry became a member of the Royal Society of London in 1982, a Fellow of Royal Society of Arts in 1983, and a Fellow of the Royal Institution in 1986. He also became a member of the Royal Society of Sciences in Uppsala, Sweden in 1986 as well as a member of the European Academy in 1989. In 1990, he received the Julius Edgar Lilienfeld prize from the American Physical Society and the Paul Dirac medal and prize from the Institute of Physics. He then won the Naylor Prize from the London Mathematical Society in 1993. In 1995, he became a Foreign Member of the National Academy of Sciences in the United States. In 1996, he became a Knight Bachelor. Professor Berry won the Kapitsa Medal from the Russian Academy of Sciences in 1997 and the Wolf Prize in Physics in 1998. In 2000, he became a member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences. Also in 2000, Michael shared the Ig Nobel Prize in Physics with Andre Geim for their work on "The Physics of Flying Frogs". In 2005, he became a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and, also in 2005, he won the Polya Prize from the London Mathematical Society.

Professor Berry has given several prestigious lectures throughout the world, including the Rouse Ball (1983) and Dirac Memorial Lectures (2007) at Cambridge, the Loeb Lectures (1989) at Harvard, the Schrodinger Lecture (1993) at Imperial College, the Gibbs Lecture (2002) at the AMS meeting in San Diego, the J. L. Synge Memorial Lecture (2004) in Dublin, the Simons Foundation Distinguished Lecture (2005) at University of New York - Stony Brook, and the Ramanujan Lecture (2009) at the Saha Institute.

He has held visiting positions in Nigeria, Italy, Germany, The Netherlands, Switzerland, France, Australia, New Zealand, the United States, Israel, Mexico, and Belgium.

For a poster advertising Sir Michael's public lecture, click here.

Professor Berry's lectures:

September 16 at 7:00 pm in D109 of the Baylor Sciences Building:

Public Lecture: Making Light of Mathematics

Abstract: Many 'mathematical phenomena' find application and sometimes spectacular physical illustration in the physics of light. Concepts such as fractals, catastrophe theory, knots, infinity, zero, and even when 1+1 fails to equal 2, are needed to understand rainbows, twinkling starlight, sparkling seas, oriental magic mirrors and simple experiments on interference, polarization and focusing. Although the concepts are sophisticated, the lecture will be nontechnical and based on pictures.

September 17 at 4:00 pm in SR 344:

Three Recent Results on Asymptotics of Oscillations

Abstract: The results are separate, and apparently paradoxical, and have implications for physics.

First, when two exponentials compete, their interference can be dominated by the contribution with smaller exponent. Second, repeated differentiation of almost all functions in a wide class generates trigonometric oscillations ('almost all functions tend to cos(x)'). Third, it is possible to find band-limited functions that oscillate arbitrarily faster than their fastest Fourier component ('superoscillations').

September 18 at 4:00 pm in SR 344:

Two by Two


Families of 2x2 matrices labelled by several parameters might seem mathematically trivial, but the geometrical structures associated with degeneracies are not widely known. In this tutorial talk, the emphasis will be on the differences between hermitian and nonhermitian matrix degeneracies and on recent understanding of physical phenomena where degeneracies play a crucial role.