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Math game theory concepts topic of faculty lecture

Game theory in popular culture will be the topic of an upcoming faculty lecture by Jennifer Nordstrom, professor of mathematics, Wednesday, Nov. 14, at 7 p.m. in 201 Riley Hall at Linfield.

Nordstrom will present “Battles of Wits and Matters of Trust: Game Theory in Popular Culture.” The talk will introduce essential concepts in game theory such as perfect knowledge, prisoners’ dilemma and chicken, which appear in a variety of films. For instance, in the 1987 movie “The Princess Bride,” two characters engage in an intellectual battle in which one tries to outwit the other by untangling the latter’s strategy. Also, in the 2008 Batman movie “The Dark Knight,” the Joker pits two ferryboats against each other so that one boat’s passengers can only save themselves by choosing to destroy the other boat.

Competitive situations often add drama to a film, as they elicit fundamental psychological conflicts between characters. In particular, game-theoretic scenarios develop themes of trust, selfishness and altruism. They can also be used to demonstrate characters’ intellectual prowess or fearlessness.

Nordstrom, a professor at Linfield since 2000, holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Redlands, a master’s from the University of Maryland and a Ph.D. from the University of Oregon.

The lecture is free and open to the public. The Linfield College faculty lecture series offers one presentation each month by a member of the Linfield faculty. For more information, call 503-883-2409.