“Do Dogs Know Calculus?”

“What covers a house?” “Roof,” says the dog. But Tim Pennings, says that his dog Elvis is a lot smarter than that. Pennings claims that Elvis understands calculus and he explains that in a lecture, “Do Dogs Know Calculus?” at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 5, in Herrick Auditorium. A standard calculus problem is to find the quickest path from a point on shore to a point in the lake, given that running speed is greater than swimming speed.  Elvis, a Welsh Corgi, has never had a calculus coure. But when he and owner Tim Pennings play “fetch” at Lake Michigan, he appears to choose paths closer to the calculus answer. In this talk, Tim and Elvis will reveal what was found when they experimentally tested this ability.  Elvis will be available for follow-up questions following the lecture.

A second lecture, about mathematical bifurcations, will take place at 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday, March 6, in room 114 of Olin Science Hall.  Tim and Elvis will show that dogs – at least, Elvis – knows calculus. That is, Elvis can find the optimal – fastest – route to a ball thrown into the water some distance down the beach. But what happens when Elvis is positioned in the water and retrieves a ball that is also in the water? When should he swim straight to the ball, and when should he swim in to the shore, run along the shore, and then swim back out to the ball? What is the bifurcation point for the change in optimal strategy? Does Elvis bifurcate? Does his fur bicate?

Dr. Elvis (he has an honorary doctorate degree) will be in the building demonstrating that he’s indeed the King of Calculus – and much more than a hound dog. Refreshments will be served prior to the presentations.

Tim and Elvis’ visit to Denison is co-sponsored by the Ronneberg Lecture Series and the Department of Math and Computer Science at Denison University. For more information, please contact Dee Ghiloni at 740-587-6259.

Dee Ghiloni