New York Times bestselling author Jordan Ellenberg told a large Wauwatosa crowd Monday, April 11, that, sometimes, the right answer is 'I don't know.'
Ellenberg is a math professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and author of 'How Not to Be Wrong,' a book that explores how math touches everything in the world. The author was the featured speaker at the Wauwatosa Public Library Foundation's Spring Leadership Luncheon April 11 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, 10499 Innovation Drive.
In his joke-filled speech, the energetic Ellenberg described a summer he once spent computing how many people will have tuberculosis by the year 2050. At the end of the summer, when he handed his findings to his boss, he described feeling a great sense of uncertainty about his answers.
There was so much uncertainty in his calculations that Ellenberg thought it could be possible that no one would have tuberculosis in 2050 — or, maybe everyone would. However, the mathematician explained, there can be a great deal of precision in uncertainty, especially when predicting election outcomes. Ellenberg spoke extensively about Nate Silver, a statistician and writer who analyzes baseball and elections.
Silver gained public recognition when he successfully called the outcomes of nearly every state in the 2008 U.S. presidential election. Ellenberg said Silver always included an uncertainty percentage in his predictions, which only added to his accuracy.
'Math is about getting the right answer and math is about understanding how the world works,' he said.
A number of community members were honored during the annual luncheon, including John Kissinger, the CEO of the engineering firm Graef, who was the Arthur B. Kohasky Leadership Award recipient. Named after 'Art' Kohasky, who was born in 1898 in the Wausau area and joined the Wauwatosa State Bank in his early twenties, the award is given to recognize leadership in all its forms. Kohasky became a leader in the business and larger community because of his character, intelligence and commitment to doing things well.
Through his job, Kissinger has worked on a number of notable projects, including the Milwaukee Art Museum, The Wisconsin Center, the Pettit National Ice Center and Lambeau Field. Kissinger's community involvement is extensive; he serves as chairman of the Milwaukee Area Workforce Investment Board and is a member of the Wauwatosa Economic Development Advisory Committee, among many other organizations.
During his acceptance speech, Kissinger noted that 'no one gets by alone.' He thanked his colleagues, his family and his mentors for all the support along the way.
'I'm very, very honored,' he said.
A number of area students were named student leadership award recipients. They are:
· Camila Hernandez, Divine Savior Holy Angels High School
· George Elliott, Marquette University High School
· Andrew Scholz, Pius XI High School
· Madeline Ladd, Wauwatosa East High School
· Bridget Obligato, Wauwatosa West High School