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Code-cracking math professor to share secrets March 21

by Judy Hughes, communications and marketing last modified Mar 08, 2013 11:10 AM

Did you ever wonder how you wound up with the driver’s license number that you have? A mathematics professor’s curiosity led to cracking the code for some states, and he’ll share that lesson in a March 21 talk at UofL.

University of Minnesota-Duluth professor Joseph Gallian, a Mathematical Association of America past president, will discuss “Breaking Driver’s License Codes,” at 6:30 p.m. in Room 101, Strickler Hall, Belknap Campus. His free, public talk is the annual Bullitt lecture sponsored by the mathematics department.

Gallian’s attempts to figure out the formulas that states use in issuing the license numbers led him to break the code for Minnesota, Illinois and Missouri. He is expected to discuss how the task required problem-solving techniques that scientists use and how exploring things “just for the fun of it” can lead to other applications.

The Bullitt family endowed the general-interest lecture series to honor former U.S. Solicitor General William Marshall Bullitt's interest in mathematics.

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