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Math Goes To The Movies

June 27, 2012

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the mathematics underlying movie special effects at this free public event, July 11 at 6:15 PM at the Hyatt Regency Minneapolis.

What do Avatar, The Chronicles of Narnia, X-Men, Harry Potter, and Pirates of the Caribbean have in common?

Simulated physics.

That´s right. Making visual effects real for movie audiences–be it Avatar´s vast ocean surface or rising water levels in The Deathly Hallows–requires quite a bit of physics and math. Physical equations and scientific computations are generated behind the scenes to ensure that the elements you see on the big screen obey the same laws of physics as their real counterparts.

One mathematician who helps ensure the credibility of such visual effects is Dr. Robert Bridson of the University of British Columbia. He will talk about the math and physics behind a broad range of 3D special effects used in movies and computer animations at the Hyatt Regency Minneapolis from 6:15 to 7:15 p.m. on Wednesday, July 11. The talk is targeted to a general audience and does not require expertise in mathematics or movie production; knowledge of high-school level mathematics is adequate.

The event is free and open to the public, and is part of the Annual Meeting of the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM), being held July 9-13 right here in Minneapolis. Bridson´s talk is this year´s I. E. Block Community Lecture, organized by SIAM to inspire appreciation for mathematics and its influence on the world around us.

Dr. Bridson has worked on several blockbuster movies, including The Rise of the Planet of the Apes and The Adventures of Tin-Tin. He is co-creator of Naiad, a software that provides liquid and gas simulations at very high speeds with minimal processing power. The release of this software to studios worldwide has redefined the movie-industry standard for fluid simulations.

In addition to his silver screen exploits, Dr. Bridson is an internationally-known researcher in computer graphics and numerical simulation methods as well as a full-time professor of scientific computing and computer graphics at the University of British Columbia.

The SIAM Annual Meeting brings together applied mathematicians and computational scientists from all over the world, providing a broad view of state-of-the-art applications of their work through presentations, lectures, minisymposia, papers, and posters.

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