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Meeting Einstein

Mathematics of Soap Bubbles

Lecture and discussion with James Sethian, Einstein Visiting Fellow and Professor of Mathematics at the University of California, Berkeley

14 June 2013, 7:30 pm

They light up children’s eyes and continue to fascinate us when grown up: soap bubbles. But hardly anybody who is enjoying the iridescent beauty of a soap bubble is aware that this light entertainment wouldn’t be possible without tough physics. Just like other propagating interfaces such as ocean waves or burning flames, soap bubbles exhibit complex dynamics: Their boundaries can twist in complicated ways, they can break apart or merge together. For more than a hundred years, mathematicians have worked on equations describing these processes. Recently, a new set of mathematical and algorithmic techniques was combined that makes it possible to compute interface motions. 


Join Einstein Visiting Fellow James Sethian on his fascinating journey through the world of applied mathematics. The renowned mathematician will focus on the scientific and engineering applications of his groundbreaking findings. You will understand what the functioning of an inkjet plotter has in common with a dripping faucet and the early detection of eye diseases.

James Sethian is Professor of Mathematics at the University of California, Berkeley. He has specialised in the mathematical modelling of moving interfaces and boundaries. His research is applicable to various problems of engineering, including image processing and the manufacturing of computer chips. In May 2013 his groundbreaking work on soap bubbles has been published in “Science”. James Sethian has been Einstein Visiting Fellow at the Berlin Mathematical School (BMS) since 2011.

Einstein Visting Fellow

The aim of the funding programme “Einstein Visiting Fellow” of the Einstein Foundation Berlin is to integrate outstanding foreign scientists into the Berlin research landscape.