School of Mathematics Colloquium
Thursday, October 17, 2013 - 11:00am
1 hour (actually 50 minutes)
In this talk, my goal is to give an introduction to some of the mathematics behind quasicrystals. Quasicrystals were discovered in 1982, when Dan Schechtmann observed a material which produced a diffraction pattern made of sharp peaks, but with a 10-fold rotational symmetry. This indicated that the material was highly ordered, but the atoms were nevertheless arranged in a non-periodic way. These quasicrystals can be defined by certain aperiodic tilings, amongst which the famous Penrose tiling. What makes aperiodic tilings so interesting--besides their aesthetic appeal--is that they can be studied using tools from many areas of mathematics: combinatorics, topology, dynamics, operator algebras... While the study of tilings borrows from various areas of mathematics, it doesn't go just one way: tiling techniques were used by Giordano, Matui, Putnam and Skau to prove a purely dynamical statement: any Z^d free minimal action on a Cantor set is orbit equivalent to an action of Z.