John Forbes Nash and his wife Alicia were tragically killed in a car crash on May 23, having just returned from a ceremony in Norway where John Nash received the prestigious Abel Prize in Mathematics (which, along with the Fields Medal, is the closest thing mathematics has to a Nobel Prize). Nash’s long struggle with mental illness, as well as his miraculous recovery, are depicted vividly in Sylvia Nasar’s book “A Beautiful Mind” and the Oscar-winning film which it inspired. In this post, I want to give a brief account of Nash’s work in game theory, for which he won the 1994 Nobel Prize in Economics. Before doing that, I should mention, however, that while this is undoubtedly Nash’s most influential work, he did many other things which from a purely mathematical point of view are much more technically difficult. Nash’s Abel Prize, for example (which he shared with Louis Nirenberg), was for his work in non-linear partial differential equations and its applications to geometric analysis, which most mathematicians consider to be Nash’s deepest contribution to mathematics. You can read about that work here. Continue reading

# Category Archives: Topology

# The Mathematics of Marriage

It’s been a while since my last blog post — one reason being that I recently got married. In honor of that occasion, and my return to math blogging, here is a post on Hall’s Marriage Theorem.

Consider the following game of solitaire: you deal a deck of cards into 13 piles of 4 cards each, and your goal is to select one card from each pile so that no *value* (Ace through King) is repeated. It is a beautiful mathematical fact that this can always been done, no matter how the cards were originally dealt!

We will deduce this from a more general result due to Philip Hall commonly known as Hall’s Marriage Theorem. Suppose you are given finite sets and you wish to find **distinct** elements . (In our solitaire example, take to be the values of the cards in the pile.) Such a collection is called a **transversal** or **SDR** (system of distinct representatives). Under what conditions is this possible? Well, for a transversal to exist it is *necessary* that for each subset , the set contains at least elements. Hall’s theorem asserts that these conditions are also *sufficient*. Continue reading