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Dr. Thomas Otway Explains Caustics to Honors College Cohorts

by Binyomin Shtaynberger ('14)

This past Tuesday, the Honors College cohorts met in Belfer Hall for a presentation by Dr. Thomas Otway, Professor of Mathematics at Yeshiva University. The fascinating program was titled "Sunlight Falling on a Cup of Coffee." The general scope of the program was an analysis of caustics, which are a special type of light reflection, and the cohorts focused mainly on the shapes, angles, and brightness that are caused by different scenarios.

In addition to the incredible amount of math and scientific knowledge provided, Dr. Otway also provided plenty of historical references- most interesting for those who were not fully capable of understanding the brilliant mathematical processes of Da Vinci and other great thinkers. Dr. Otway concluded the session by offering practical usages for the understanding of caustics, such as using them to prove that a planet is similar to earth because Dr. Otway explained that gravity could somewhat be equated to caustics.

The session was very enlightening and showed all that within even the simplest of everyday occurrences, such as light hitting a cup of coffee, there is a great amount of understanding and knowledge that could be gained.