Presidential Lecture - "The Square Peg Problem" by Dr. Andrew Lobb
The phrase "A square peg in a round hole" means something or someone conforming to unsuitable surroundings. It's an unsolved conjecture over a century old that given any shape of hole - in other words any closed curve in the plane - you can always find four points on the curve that form the vertices of a square. This says that square pegs can be made to fit into any shape hole, not just into square ones! I'll talk about this conjecture, its history, recent progress, and surprising and beautiful connections with famously one-sided surfaces such as the Moebius strip and the Klein bottle.
Andrew Lobb was an undergraduate at Oxford University and then took up a Kennedy Scholarship at Harvard University for his PhD studies. During these studies, he became interested in low-dimensional topology and wrote his thesis on applications of quantum knot invariants to 4-dimensional problems. Dr. Lobb moved back to the UK for a postdoctoral position at Imperial College London, then returned to the USA for second postdoc at Stony Brook which included six months leave to take part in a program at MSRI. He has been at Durham University in the UK since 2011.