The blue and green colors we see in birds, and even some of the ultraviolet that we cannot see, are produced by the way in which light interacts with ordered structures in the tissues of the birds. This order in the structures can be measured using Fourier analysis, a powerful mathematical tool.

Like a prism that decomposes a beam of light into a rainbow of colors, Fourier analysis transforms the geometrical arrangements observed in electron microscope images of the tissues into a mathematical rainbow of basic components that quantify order. We will illustrate how Fourier analysis processes the images and helps decipher the colors of birds and other animals. We will use this application of Fourier analysis to present also some of its mathematical concepts and interest.

The talk will be accessible to all those who are curious about some of the physics behind the bright blue and green colors found in nature and how mathematics can be used to describe such coloration.

About the Speaker

Rodolfo H. Torres is an Associate Vice Chancellor for the University of Kansas Office of Research and a professor of mathematics.

Torres also serves as a Vice President of KU Center for Research Inc. He shares in the senior leadership of research administration, strategic planning, and other responsibilities. He participates in the oversight of KU's research centers and institutes, specifically the Hall Center for the Humanities, the Institute for Policy & Social Research, the Life Span Institute, the Biodiversity Institute, the Achievement and Assessment Institute and the Kansas Biological Survey. He also has primary responsibility for the Research Integrity unit, the General Research Fund (GRF), and the Major Project Planning Grant (MPPG) Fund.

Torres came to KU in 1996 following postdoctoral appointments at New York University and the University of Michigan. He advanced to full professor in 2003. He is a past president of the KU Faculty Senate and was named a fellow of the American Mathematical Society in 2012.

His academic background includes a Licenciatura from the Universidad Nacional de Rosario in Argentina and M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from Washington University in St. Louis, all in mathematics.

Rodolfo Torres, University of Kansas

Lecture Video