Vermont State Mathematics Coalition

Math Beyond the Horizon
When Will We Run Out? Some Mathematical Models of the Depletion of Nonrenewable Resources

Saturday, December 11, 2021, 10:00 AM

Our current civilization is heavily dependent on nonrenewable (exhaustible) resources. We use petroleum, coal, natural gas and uranium- dependent nuclear power to create electricity, heat and cool our homes, power our vehicles and manufacture our goods. Products we use every day require minerals such as copper, gold, silver, zinc and aluminum which we use up faster than the earth can replenish them.

How long will such nonrenewable resources last? Are there optimal ways to manage a dwindling supply?

We will illustrate how such questions can be approached using a variety of mathematical models that productively use concepts from arithmetic, algebra, calculus of one and several variables, differential equations, discrete dynamical systems, computer simulation, and optimal control theory.

Our emphasis will be on the use of precalculus mathematics, with some reference to ideas from beginning calculus.

Michael Olinick

Michael Olinick obtained his BA degree from the University of Michigan and MA and Ph. D. from the University of Wisconsin Madison. He teaches at Middlebury College in Vermont where he has served as Alfred P. Sloan Resource Professor and John C. Baldwin Professor of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy. He is the author or coauthor of a number of books including Introduction to Mathematical Models in the Social and Life Sciences, Calculus, Principles and Practice of Mathematics, Reasoning with Probability, Mathematical Modeling in the Social and Life Sciences, Simply Turing, and Multivariable Calculus: A Linear Algebra Based Approach.

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Latest Update: December 11, 2021