The Buck Starts Here
Finance lives at the intersection of wealth, time, and risk.
The vast machinery of our financial systems relies on mathematics, ranging from arithmetic through stochastic calculus. While finance benefits greatly from mathematics, it is not a one-way relationship — many concepts in mathematics, from zero and negative numbers to the dynamics of random motion, found their genesis in financial applications.
In this four-part series of connected but independent presentations, discover how some of the greatest mathematicians across the continents and millennia transformed concrete financial problems into abstract mathematical concepts, while addressing financial applications.
Whether you are curious about the history of math or looking for practical financial information, this series is for you. With help from experts in finance, history, and mathematics, we will explore how real world problems inspire mathematical thinking and learn how to apply those mathematical insights to improve our own financial decision making today.
The Buck Starts Here series is hosted by Alex Kontorovich and Andy Davidson, and each session will feature a guest expert. Alex is a Professor of Mathematics at Rutgers University and MoMath’s 2020–2021 Distinguished Visiting Professor for the Public Dissemination of Mathematics. Andy Davidson is the founder of Financial Life Cycle Education and a member of the MoMath Advisory Council.
with special guest Klaus Wagensonner
Friday, May 12 at 6:30 pm ET
In this first session of the series, Alex and Andy welcome guest expert Klaus Wagensonner of Yale University for an exploration of how financial thinking developed in ancient Babylonia.
Learn about the recording of inventories for the temple economy. Ponder how early civilizations realized that land and livestock produce added value over time, leading to the development of the concept that we now call “interest” along with the mathematics of recursion. The Babylonians even created a spreadsheet — in stone!
Throughout this engaging unfolding of the mathematics and financial systems of an early civilization, Klaus will share with us his insights as a researcher and lecturer specializing in Sumerian literature and the translation of Babylonian cuneiform artifacts. Don’t miss this dynamic conversation weaving together the rich threads of history, mathematics, and finance!
with special guest Keith Devlin
Wednesday, June 28 at 6:30 pm ET
Join hosts Alex Kontorovich and Andy Davidson for The Buck Starts Here, a series revealing the interwoven history of math and finance. In this second session of the series, “Global Dimensions,” Alex and Andy welcome guest mathematician Keith Devlin, emeritus mathematician at Stanford University, author of Finding Fibonacci: The Quest to Rediscover the Forgotten Mathematical Genius Who Changed the World, and, for many years, “The Math Guy” on National Public Radio.
Traverse the world (but not literally!) with Alex, Andy, and Keith as we explore how ideas in math and finance developed in India, China, and Africa, and see how those ideas made their way to Europe. Learn how those concepts were conveyed through the writings of Leonardo Di Pisa — also known as Fibonacci — and how the schools developed to teach these methods still have resonance in our studies of algebra and accounting today.
“From Gambling to Annuities”
with special guest Donald Richards
Monday, July 10 at 6:30 pm ET
Join hosts Alex Kontorovich and Andy Davidson as they welcome guest expert Donald Richards, Distinguished Professor of Statistics at Penn State University, for this session of The Buck Starts Here. This session of the series delves into the mathematics of risk. Despite the widespread recognition of financial risk, the mathematics of probability did not grow out of a study of financial risk, but rather, from several problems in gambling that stumped mathematicians for generations. Explore how the combination of statistics with probability for computing annuities led to significant mathematical and financial breakthroughs!
“Stocks and Stochastics”
with special guest Bob Fernholz
Wednesday, August 16 at 6:30 pm ET
Join hosts Alex Kontorovich and Andy Davidson as they welcome Bob Fernholz, renowned mathematician and researcher specializing in the mathematics of finance. In this season finale of The Buck Starts Here, we will discover how the exploration of moving stock prices changed our understanding of the link between risk and time at the infinitesimal level, and how mathematics can be used to value both simple and complex financial transactions — as well as heat diffusion and quantum mechanics!
These events are presented live and streamed online to an active audience. Not all events will be recorded and distributed, but in the event that an event recording does become available, the video recording is a separate purchase; the event recording is not included in the registration fee for attending an event.
For a list of event recordings available for purchase, please visit videos.momath.org. Please allow at least 6-8 weeks for an event recording to become available for purchase.