My former colleague Larry Guth (now at MIT) visited us recently and gave a beautiful colloquium talk. The Department has recently deployed a video streaming service so we are able to share Larry’s talk with the world. We look forward to sharing other videos in the future.
Here is the video:
Unexpected applications of polynomials in combinatorics
by Larry Guth | MIT
Time: 16:10 (Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2013)
Location: BA6183, Bahen Center, 40 St George St
In the last five years, several hard problems in combinatorics have been solved by using polynomials in an unexpected way. In some cases, the proofs are very short, and I will present a complete proof in the lecture. One of the problems is the joints problem. Given a set of lines in $R^3$, a joint is a point that lies in three non-coplanar lines. Given $L$ lines in $R^3$, how many joints can there be? Another problem is the distinct distance problem in the plane. If P is a set of points in the plane, the distance set of $P$ is the set of all distances from one point of $P$ to another. If $P$ is a set of $N$ points in the plane, how small can the distance set of $P$ be? The proofs involve studying a set of points in a vector space by finding a polynomial of controlled degree that vanishes at the points, and then using the geometry of the zero-set to understand the combinatorial properties of the points. The goal for the talk is to give an overview of this new method.