Abstract

4:30 PM Wednesday September 7 Math-Physics 119 (DUMU lecture)  Why the IRS cares about the Riemann Zeta Function and Number Theory (and why you should too!).  This talk should be of interest to all undergraduate math students.

Many systems exhibit a digit bias. For example, the first digit base 10 of the Fibonacci numbers or of 2^n equals 1 about 30% of the time; the IRS uses this digit bias to detect fraudulent corporate tax returns.

This phenomenon, known as Benford’s Law, was first noticed by observing which pages of log tables were most worn from age — it’s a good thing
there were no calculators 100 years ago!

We’ll discuss the general theory and applications, talk about some fun examples (ranging from the 3x+1 problem to the Riemann zeta function as time permits), and discuss some current open problems suitable for undergraduate research projects.

Steven Miller, Williams College