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Leonardo, Rapunzel and the Mathematics of Hair

Tuesday 29 August, 8pm
Free (Ticketed)
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Lecture given by Professor Raymond E Goldstein FRS


From Leonardo da Vinci to the Brothers Grimm our fascination with hair has endured in art and science. We love it for its “body” or “volume”, the fluffiness and elasticity that comes from its random waves and curls. But apart from a purely tactile response, can we take a more quantitative approach to hair, to explain these macroscopic properties in terms of the behaviour of individual hairs? We know that the important physics governing hair involves the interplay of its elasticity, weight and curliness, but it is only recently that these have been synthesised into a mathematical theory. This talk, by Professor Goldstein, Schlumberger Professor of Complex Physical Systems in the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics at the University of Cambridge, will cover the mathematics involved, focusing on the important historical developments of elasticity theory due to Euler and Bernoulli and the determination of energy-minimising shapes through the calculus of variations.