Sunday, October 21, 2012

My 15 minutes of fame

Well, folks, my 15 minutes of fame has officially come to an end. I think it's time to step back and review (i.e. document for future reference) what has happened.

This pretty much sums it up 
(views of the video during my 15 minutes of fame)

Here is a rundown of all the awesome things I have been fortunate enough to experience due to my PhD video over the past few months.

June 15: I showed the video to about 60 early-career mathematicians at the AMS math research community on discrete and computational geometry in Snowbird, UT. The entire audience burst out laughing when the sentence "My theorem works!" appeared on the screen. A friendly audience indeed.

June 22: I showed the video to the undergraduates at the Summer@ICERM REU, to explain my research to them. Definitely more effective than a whiteboard explanation.

June 26: I showed the video to a group at the Exeter math conference. We tried to come up with other theorems that could be demonstrated through dance, which was difficult, but the Sentry Theorem was an obvious choice.

July 2: The GeomBlog mentions my video in a guest post by a mathematician from the Snowbird conference.
Finally a shout out for my favorite screening of the session- Diana Davis showed us her entry for "Dance your Ph.D thesis", which drew much approval from an audience worn out by the excessive number of dry beamer and powerpoint presentations we've seen.

July 2: Someone submits the video to reddit/math. It gets 118 votes and 25 comments, most of which are math-related ("what is the genus of the double pentagon surface?"). The YouTube version of the video got over 1500 views in one day.

July 5: The Aperiodical writes a post about the video.
As a mathematician (and not just any kind of mathematician – a PURE mathematician), I heard of the “Dance Your PhD“ contest and immediately burst out laughing. As much as there is some nice pure mathematical dancing out there, the idea that someone’s mathematical PhD research could be conveyed via bodily gyration was both fantastical and hilarious. However, like any good scientist, I’m happy to be proved wrong and in this lovely clip, Dance Your PhD 2012 entrant (and pure mathematician) Diana Davis explains some lovely maths [...]

July 9: Math Munch, written by a participant from the Exeter conference, mentions my video in a post about how mathematics and mathematicians take many different forms.
Let me point you to the “Dance your Ph.D.” Contest. It’s exactly what it sounds like—people sharing the ideas of their dissertations (their first big piece of original work) through dance. Entries come in from physicists, chemists, biologists, and more. Below you’ll find an entry by Diana Davis, a mathematician who completed her dissertation at Brown University this past spring. Diana often studies regular polgyons and especially ways of “dissecting” them—breaking them up into pieces in interesting ways.

August 11: The Williams College math department posts about the video on their web site (later edited to include the contest result). The Brown math department also links it from their web page.

August 23: My friend Dan Katz posts about my video on Facebook. 18 people re-share it, which is way more than when I posted it myself. He is well-connected among mathematicians and this really gets the video out there. Several hundred people watch it embedded on Facebook.
This video, created by Diana Davis, a grad student at Brown, is her entry into a "dance your thesis" competition. It is probably nothing like what the organizers are expecting, and probably much much cooler. You should watch it, and then watch the potentially even awesomer FAQ video she posted later (it should appear as a link up top when you load the first video). Great job, Diana!

August 25: howthebodyworks writes a short post about my video.
“Dance your thesis” by Diana Davis, is the first interpretive dance of group topology I’ve ever seen. Homework: do an alternative take as a slamming dancehall track.

August 30: A mathematician emails me to say he likes the video, and suggests making video games that take place on surfaces similar to the double pentagon.

August 31: PhD+epsilon links to my video in her post about "performance math":
A friend of mine recently shared with me a video of an interpretive dance of a theorem in Diana Davis’ Ph.D. thesis. As her note under the video says, this was created for submission to the “Dance your Ph.D.” competition. I haven’t seen other submissions, but I really love this one.

September 5: A mathematician emails me to ask if it is okay if he puts the video on his web page. Yes!

October 1: The contest closes. I start to get nervous.

October 4: The Brown Daily Herald wrote a front-page article about the video. Several hundred people watched my video embedded on the BDH web site.
Imagine walking in a straight line on a torus, a bagel-like geometric shape. It would be possible to go through the hole and end up where you started, walk around the perimeter and end up back at the beginning, or to walk in spirals and zig-zags. These are the surfaces that serve as the subject of thesis research for Diana Davis GS, who is studying in the Department of Mathematics.

October 5: A shortened version of the BDH article appears in Russian.
Представьте, что идете прямо по валику, по форме напоминающему бублик. Можно пройти через дырку «бублика «и прийти, откуда начали путь, пройти по периметру и оказаться в начале, или же идти по спирали или зигзагами. Такие «бубликовые» поверхности служат предметом диссертационной работы для Дианы Дэвис с кафедры математики университета Браун на Род Айленде.

October 5: Brown Graduate School posts about the video on their Facebook page.

October 9: The 12 finalists are announced (3 in each category). "Cutting sequences" is among them. Whew! Several hundred people watch the video.

October 12: I was secretly notified that I had won the Physics category and had not won the entire contest. The contest organizer and I went back and forth with many emails. He told me that I should definitely go to TEDx Brussels since Oxford is so close to Brussels, and he got me a free ticket (TED, not plane).

October 14: The winners are revealed to the world. 1,000 people per day (!) watch the video.

October 14: I do a phone interview for BioTechniques.

October 14: hyperbolic crochet writes a long post about Veech surfaces, including pictures of models she made to better understand the double pentagon.
By now it is 3 am, and I am still thinking of Veech surface. That dance gives a very nice illustration how this surface can be otained by identifying sides but I cannot visualize. I am trying to get back to sleep but I am still puzzled with what I read in Hubert's and Schmidt's paper: " An easy Euler characteristics calculation shows that it has a genus two. As a genus two surface it has a hyperbolic covering."

October 15: BioTechniques publishes an article based on the previous day's interview.
To create her winning submission, Davis screened multiple versions of her video to family and friends without backgrounds in mathematics to ensure that her research was being explained in a clear manner. “With earlier versions that I thought really explained my theory [well], other people would say, ‘What is going on?’” said Davis. “I was sort of discouraged. It went through a lot of iterations.”

October 15: I email a mathematician to ask about a postdoc job for next year, and he already knows about me because a colleague shared the video with him.

October 16: W.A. Veech, the mathematician who discovered Veech surfaces, sends me an email. (!!!)

October 17: Brown University posts about my winning the contest on their Facebook page. Almost 100 people like it and 51 re-share it.

October 17: I do an interview via Skype for the Physics Buzz podcast. It hasn't come out yet. I just hope I don't sound like a jabbering idiot.

October 18: Marlborough School posts about the video on their Facebook because Libby Stein, the wonderful dancer, went to high school there. She told the school about the dance and the video:
"Last fall, I took a multivariable calc class taught by a Ph.D student here at Brown ... She told me about a contest called 'Dance Your Ph.D.' where any graduate student can submit a dance explaining their Ph.D. She asked me if I would help her compete and of course I agreed ... I just wanted to let you all know about this because my love of math really started at Marlborough. I would not have even considered taking a college math course if not for the amazing experience I had with Marlborough's faculty and staff."

October 19: A mathematician emails me to ask if he can use clips and stills from the video in a colloquium talk. Yes!

October 21: Brown University features the video on the home page just above the Dalai Lama, and writes a press release about the video.

In conclusion: The video has been watched about 10,000 times, which is probably 1,000 times as many  people as read the math paper where I proved the result. This video has spread the word about my research far further than I ever could simply by proving theorems and writing papers, or even by giving math talks. All of the mathematicians I have heard from seem to love the video, which makes all the hard work we put into it pay off. It has been a wonderful experience.

Thanks again to Libby and the rest of the dancers for making this possible.

Update: Brown linked to the news article about the video in the Brown Insider, an email sent to all alumni. Over 1,000 people watched the video as a result.

Spike in views due to Brown's email

1 comment:

Alan said...

Gosh, you're so modest!