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Mathematician questions ‘Do Dogs Know Calculus?’

Pennings and Elvis

Do dogs know calculus? It’s a question mathematician Dr. Tim Pennings would ponder whenever he would play catch with his dog since a typical calculus problem involves finding the optimal path from one place to another while traversing two different mediums involving variable speeds.

“A standard calculus problem is to find the quickest path from a point on shore to a point in the lake, given that running speed is greater than swimming speed,” Pennings said. “Elvis has never had a calculus course. But when we play fetch at Lake Michigan, he appears to choose pathsclose to the calculus answer.”

Pennings will bring his Welsh corgi, Elvis, to The University of Toledo to discuss “Do Dogs Know Calculus?” 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 13 in Memorial Field House Room 2100.

Pennings will reveal what was found when Elvis’ ability was put to the test and Elvis will be on hand to field follow-up questions — and a few tennis balls.

You can catch a sneak peek of Elvis on “Nova Science Now” on PBS Wednesday, Nov. 7, at 10 p.m. when the calculating canine is scheduled to be featured. Elvis also has appeared on the BBC, NPR and FOX.

The free, public talk is sponsored by the UT College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, the UT Mathematics and Statistics Department, Monroe County Community College, and the Pi Mu Epsilon National MathematicsHonor Society, the Ohio Gamma Chapter, which will hold its annual inductionceremony at the start of the event.

“Anyone who is interested in math is welcome to attend,” said Dr. Ivie Stein Jr., UT associate professor of mathematics. “It will be a fun and interesting evening.”

Click here to download a photo of Pennings and Elvis.

For more information on the talk, contact Stein at or 419.530.2994.

Media Coverage
The Blade (Nov. 13, 2012)


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