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Do Dogs Know Bifurcations?

by Roland Minton, Timothy J. Pennings

Year of Award: 2008

Award: George Polya

Publication Information: The College Mathematics Journal, vol. 38, (2007), pp. 356-361

Summary: The authors explain bifurcation diagrams using the example of Elvis, the dog, who has an uncanny ability to correctly judge how far to run along the shore and when to jump in and swim to minimize the time to retrieve a ball thrown in a lake.

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About the Author: (from The College Mathematics Journal, (2007)) Roland Minton received his Ph.D. from Clemson University in 1982. He has taught at Roanoke College since 1986. He is co-author with Bob Smith of a series of calculus textbooks, now in their third edition. He has special interest in the application of mathematics to sports, and anything else that excites students. His cats firmly refused to participate in this article.

Timothy J. Pennings is Professor of Mathematics at Hope College in Holland, Michigan. His research, done collaboratively with undergraduate students, is in dynamical systems and modeling. He also directs the Hope College NSF-REU Mathematics Summer Research Program. Other reasons for living include ultimate frisbee, racquetball, nature photography, choral music, folk song guitar gigs, and playing with Elvis on the beach.


Subject classification(s): Calculus
Publication Date: 
Wednesday, October 22, 2008