First published in the Nov. 3 print issue of the Pasadena Outlook.
The Caltech Y brought together more than 100 members and supporters at its quarterly Friends Dinner on Wednesday, Oct. 15, at the Athenaeum.
The event celebrates the generosity of donors and the leadership, travel, and volunteer opportunities they make possible for Caltech undergraduate and graduate students.
Eugenia Cheng, a mathematician, author and accomplished musician who has been a Ted Talk speaker and a guest on “the Late Show With Stephen Colbert” was the dinner’s featured speaker.
Cheng, who earned a doctorate in mathematics from the University of Cambridge, discussed “the Square Root of 2 and the Devil in Music.” The square root of two is one of the great conundrums of mathematics. So easy to describe but so difficult to pin down! The tritone is known as the devil in music or “diabolo in musica” because it is the most dissonant musical interval. Performing on the piano and violin, Cheng wove those two stories together to an enthusiastic audience.
Earlier in the day, Cheng spoke at a luncheon hosted by the Caltech Y Student Activism Speaker Series and Caltech’s Institute for Quantum Information and Matter. Exploring themes in her 2020 book, “x + y: A Mathematician’s Manifesto for Rethinking Gender,” Cheng posited that character traits such as aggression, confidence and analytical reasoning need to be dissociated from gender to create a less divisive society.
“Like the Caltech Y, Dr. Chen values the importance of community,” said Athena Castro, Caltech Y executive director. “Her talk was a reminder that we need to create safe spaces for everyone and recognize people’s unique talents and perspectives. It was such a memorable visit!”
Every year, more than 250 Caltech alumni, faculty and staff, along with Pasadena civic and business leaders, donate to the Caltech Y. In gratitude, the Caltech Y hosts Friends Dinners and invites leading minds in science and the arts to deliver a keynote address. Previous presenters include Nobel Laureate Frances Arnold, Martin Chalifour, principal concertmaster of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and Spiros Michalakis, Caltech researcher and scientific consultant for Hollywood films.
Established in 1916, the Caltech Y is an independent nonprofit affiliated with Caltech that empowers students to become responsible citizens of the world. Gifts of all sizes support one of our five pillars — leadership, service, civic engagement, adventure and perspective. For instance, Caltech Y students tutor local middle and high school students through the Rise program and travel to Washington D.C., to dialogue with elected officials and policymakers. With its Advocating Change Together award, the Caltech Y provides funds to select students who want to take a deep dive into a local, national, or global issue that is important to them.
To learn more about the Caltech Y, visit caltechy.org or follow us on social media, @CaltechY on Instagram and Facebook and @Caltech-Y on LinkedIn.