Event Detail

Event Type: 
Lonseth Lecture
Tuesday, May 12, 2015 - 16:00 to 17:00
LaSells Stewart Center C&E Hall

Speaker Info

Local Speaker: 
Oregon State University

By dipping a wire frame in a soap solution, one can often produce a soap film spanning the frame. That soap film will have the smallest area among nearby surfaces that also span the frame. The mathematical model for this type of surface is a minimal surface. Plateau's problem is to show the existence of a minimal surface with a given boundary.
Plateau's problem, which dates back to 1873, turned out to be quite challenging, and it inspired some beautiful mathematics. The problem is also sufficiently open to interpretation and generalization that the 1936 awarding of a Fields Medal for its solution did not end the story. This lecture will discuss the history of Plateau's problem, its solution, and the people involved in solving it.