A few words at a happy event


Thank you, Mme. Chancellor. Thank You, Mr. President, and Thank you, University of Victoria, for this tremendous honour. I obviously have many connections to UVic, but I should start by mentioning a very special one. Continue reading

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Light years from the academy

100_3862To Joseph on his 20th birthday

Leaning over a game of Backgammon in the main square of this remote mountain village of the Levant, the four unemployed teenagers didn’t see it coming. Youssef Habib lunged at them from the back with his barely visible Swiss army knife. It was late 1943, and the war was raging everywhere, yet elsewhere. Youssef Habib was a communist; his hero Stalin was winning the war, yet the other teenagers constantly bullied him for it. He was fed up. Continue reading

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The last graceful act of a beautiful mind

nashSunday morning, May 24th: I am having breakfast with a life-long friend, Ivar Ekeland, at his kitchen table in Paris, France. He was just back from Oslo, and was telling me about the ceremony for the 2015 Abel prize, he had just attended. He was invited a few weeks before as a member of the Norwegian Academy of Science, and had declined. But once he knew that John Nash and Louis Nirenberg would be sharing the prestigious prize, he scrambled to get himself re-invited. He didn’t want to miss the historical event involving his friends and idols, who happen to be two of the most beautiful minds. Continue reading

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An activist you are!


The letter from the president of The University of Victoria informing me about my honorary doctorate was a complete surprise. “My former graduate students and postdocs, who are now on the faculty at UVic, must have been behind this nomination,” I thought. Wishful thinking and a healthy dose of vanity made me wonder which aspects of  my mathematical contributions would be cited. I eventually asked and ultimately learned that I was wrong on both counts. Continue reading

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Mathematics, poetry and beauty


“I always thought he didn’t have enough imagination for mathematics”

Originally posted on Peter Cameron's Blog:

Comparing mathematics with poetry is an infinitely rich game. For every opinion you express, there is an equally valid counter-opinion. Contrasted to Hilbert’s dismissal of a student who had left mathematics for poetry, “I always thought he didn’t have enough imagination for mathematics”, someone said to me recently that the early death of Schubert was a greater tragedy than that of Galois, since what Galois could have achieved would sooner or later be done by someone else, whereas Schubert’s potential was lost forever.

So it isn’t so surprising that a book by Ron Aharoni, newly translated into English, doesn’t come to a definite conclusion one way or the other. The best we can do in a book entitled Mathematics, Poetry and Beauty is to give many examples of beautiful mathematics and beautiful poetry and discuss what the similarities and differences are.

Ron Aharoni is a mathematician whose field is combinatorics…

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Four lessons from an amazing site visit

B8nJaPxCQAAcgSGA joint site visit to the Banff International Research Station (BIRS) by four granting agencies representing four different governments, happened on April 16 and 17. Eight officials from the US National Science Foundation (NSF), Canada’s Natural Science and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), Mexico’s CONACyT, and Alberta Innovation and Advanced Education, accompanied an international review panel of five distinguished mathematical scientists to the site visit for BIRS. The four councils had jointly commissioned the panel to evaluate the Station. The visitors listened, asked, conversed, challenged, advised, and will soon be submitting their recommendations. Continue reading

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Why Canada’s research granting councils mean so little to this government’s agenda

NSERC, SSHRC and CIHR, Canada’s main granting agencies in support of university research are not doing well. Their total absence from Budget 2015 is only one of many symptoms indicating how tired they are. Tired are their ways in trying to justify themselves to government, and tired they must be of having essentially nothing to offer to the political agenda. Continue reading

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