MATH
21 B
Mathematics Math21b Spring 2016
Linear Algebra and Differential Equations
Exhibit: Bad Calculator ?
Course Head: Oliver Knill
Office: SciCtr 432

Careful with differential equations

On May 8, news media reported about a poor economics professor who solved differential equations on the plane. An over anxious neighbor who was a bit put off that the busy professor would not chat suspected the math equations to be "terrorist code". The flight was delayed. So, be careful, when reviewing your Math21b material while traveling.
Washington Post: On Thursday evening, a 40-year-old man - with dark, curly hair, olive skin and an exotic foreign accent - boarded a plane. It was a regional jet making a short, uneventful hop from Philadelphia to nearby Syracuse. The curly-haired man tried to keep to himself, intently if inscrutably scribbling on a notepad he'd brought aboard. His seatmate, a blond-haired, 30-something woman sporting flip-flops and a red tote bag, looked him over. He was wearing navy Diesel jeans and a red Lacoste sweater - a look he would later describe as "simple elegance" - but something about him didn't seem right to her. She decided to try out some small talk. Is Syracuse home? She asked. No, he replied curtly. Metro: An Italian maths professor was booted off an American Airlines flight after another passenger feared that his mysterious scrawls on a notepad were proof that he was a terrorist. But Guido Menzio wasn't - he was actually just working on an equation for an upcoming presentation. The unnamed woman reportedly became suspicious after she tried to strike up conversation as the plane sat on the tarmac at Philadelphia Airport ahead of a flight to Syracuse, New York - but Menzio wasn't interested in talking. Instead, he was deeply immersed in his notes, and the woman feared that he might be a terrorist because she didn't recognise the script. She then raised the alarm to staff by telling them she was `sick' and revealed her suspicions after she was removed from the plane. The incident occured on an American Airlines flight (Picture:
Getty) Menzio, 40, was then removed from the plane as a security precaution, before staff discovered that he was an associate economics professor at the University of Pennsylvania, and was just writing notes for an upcoming paper on menu costs. He has now revealed that he was `treated respectfully' throughout interrogations, but criticised airline protocols that fail to gather sufficient evidence. `A security protocol that is too rigid - in the sense that once the whistle is blown everything stops without checks - and relies on the input of people who may be completely clueless', he told the Washington Post. ... Menzio was eventually allowed back on the plane and travelled to Syracuse on a short 41-minute trip that took off over two hours after its scheduled departure - although the woman isn't believed to have reboarded.
Please send questions and comments to knill@math.harvard.edu
Math21b Harvard College Class Number:16325 Course ID:110989| Oliver Knill | Spring 2016 | Department of Mathematics | Faculty of Art and Sciences | Harvard University, [Canvas, for admin], Twitter