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Lost in a Forest

by Steven Finch, John Wetzel

Year of Award: 2005

Publication Information: The American Mathematical Monthly, vol. 111, no. 8, October 2004, pp. 645-654

Summary: A hiker is lost in a forest whose shape and dimensions are precisely known to him. What is the best path for him to follow to escape from the forest?  This paper surveys results on this classic problem of R. Bellman, focusing on the case where the "best" escape path is the shortest one.

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About the Author(s): (from The American Mathematical Monthly, v. 111, no. 8, (2004))

Steven Finch received his B.A. in mathematics from Oberlin College in 1982 and his M.S. in applied mathematics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1985. He has worked as a statistical weather forecaster at TASC and at MIT Lincoln Laboratory, technical editor at MathSoft, and adjunct instructor at Salem State College. His book Mathematical Constants (Cambridge University Press, 2003) has recently appeared. He is honored to have received a Book Fellowship from the Clay Mathematics Institute beginning in 2004. Finch is also a classical pianist and composer; a compact disc recording An Apple Gathering features his vocal and choral music.

John Wetzel did his undergraduate work at Purdue University and received a Ph.D. in mathematics from Stanford University in 1964, a student of Halsey Royden. He retired in 1999 from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign after thirty-eight years of service. Always interested in classical geometry, he has most recently been studying the ways in which one shape fits in another--questions he regards as "fitting problems for retirement."


Subject classification(s): Index | Geometry and Topology | Calculus | Several Variables
Publication Date: 
Tuesday, September 23, 2008