A wide shot of a ceramics studio, featuring students working with pottery wheels and other tools.

SAIC’s Scientist-in-Residence Dr. Eugenia Cheng on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert

SAIC’s Scientist-in-Residence and Senior Lecturer Dr. Eugenia Cheng used puff pastry to teach Stephen Colbert math on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. Cheng used a display of mille-feuilles, a pastry made with three layers of six folds, to explain the mathematics of exponentiation. Cheng and Colbert used rolling pins to bash a half-pound of butter into the right consistency for the pastry. Consistency, Cheng points out, is also very important in math. Before they indulged in the “thousand-layer” dessert, Cheng explained that the small numbers of two and three quickly became a huge number—creating something delicious with the power of exponentials.

As SAIC’s Scientist-in-Residence, Cheng teaches a class that combines studio art and physics. The Scientist-in-Residence program is one of SAIC’s initiatives to highlight the relationship between art and science; a relationship that mathematician and concert pianist, Eugenia Cheng, understands very well.