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Do Dogs Know Calculus?

Author: las-digital | Image: las-digital

Timothy Pennings grew up in rural Minnesota and decided in the ninth grade that he wanted to teach mathematics or physics at the highest level possible. To that end, he attended the University of North Dakota for his Bachelor’s and Masters of Science degrees in Mathematics and Physics. Dr. Pennings pursued his Ph.D. at Iowa State University from 1982-87 and accepted a teaching position at Hope College, a liberal arts college in Holland MI. In 2013, he left Hope College to chair the Mathematics Department at Davenport University with campuses throughout Michigan.

With interests in mathematical modeling and the infinite, Tim’s claim to fame was his calculus-knowing dog Elvis, with whom he coauthored a half dozen papers and gave over 200 talks. In 2003, Elvis, the Welsh corgi, surprised his master by seemingly choosing the fastest route to a ball thrown into Lake Michigan. The resulting paper and publicity led to a host of other papers, including another paper by Pennings, “Do Dogs Know Bifurcations?” which explored the best strategy for retrieving a ball when Elvis starts in the water. This paper led to the MAA Polya Award for Pennings and an honorary doctorate for Elvis.

Elvis has since joined his namesake in the world beyond this, but his video lives on. This talk will cover both of these papers. Please join Dr. Pennings for this fast-paced entertaining hour of Math fun!