Professors Gordon and Webb featured in Scientific American
August 12, 2022
A recent article in Scientific American features the work of Professors Carolyn Gordon and David Webb in the field of spectral geometry, which provides information about geometric shapes based on their vibration frequencies. In 1992, Gordon, Webb, and Scott Wolpert, currently an emeritus professor at the University of Maryland, published a groundbreaking paper, One cannot hear the shape of a drum, in which they provided examples of differently shaped heads of drums that produce the same sound. The Scientific American article, Mathematicians Are Trying to ‘Hear’ Shapes—And Reach Higher Dimensions, goes on to describe more recent work in the field. Gordon and Webb present spectral geometry more generally in a 1996 article in American Scientist where they make an analogy between spectral geometry and spectroscopy which can be used to identify elements in distant stars by looking at the spectrum of the light they produce. The figure here, from their 1996 article, depicts two drumheads of different shapes having the same vibration frequencies.