Marc Garneau, our astronaut MP, who saw from outer space how beautiful, fragile and precious our planet was, didn’t do it. Ted Hsu, our Physicist MP, who witnessed its launch last week-end in Montreal, didn’t talk about it. Kennedy Stewart, Official Opposition Critic for Science & Technology missed it. It even escaped the attention of the otherwise omnipresent Gary Goodyear, Minister of State for Science and Technology. My intention here is not to dump on these guys, who may or may not have been properly and timely informed, but to single out and salute Susan Truppe, Conservative MP for London North Centre.
“Mr. Speaker, I rise today to bring attention to an exciting Canadian initiative, Mathematics of Planet Earth 2013, which is being launched today with the Canadian Mathematical Society. This initiative will bring together over a hundred groups of mathematicians from around the world to help address and solve the diverse real-life global issues we all face, ranging from the algebra of epidemics to the calculus of forest fires.
Mathematics is often referred to as the queen of science and as such is a critical and essential element for understanding and finding solutions to our many challenges. Mathematics touches every aspect of our lives every single day. With an emphasis on science, technology and engineering as well as mathematics education, this type of initiative helps ensure that Canada remains prosperous and globally competitive. I encourage my colleagues in the House to join me in lauding this significant initiative.”
Kudos to Susan Truppe for helping Canada’s mathematical community launch in the House of Commons, an unprecedented world-wide initiative, Mathematics of Planet Earth 2013 (MPE2013). A brainchild of Canada’s mathematical sciences institutes (BIRS, CRM, Fields and PIMS) and led by our own Christiane Rousseau, MPE2013 was born from the desire of the world mathematical community to engage the challenges faced by our planet, to identify and learn more about the underlying mathematical problems, and to accelerate the research effort on these issues.
The MPE2013 initiative was originally one major component of a Canadian bid to host the 2014 International Congress of Mathematicians (ICM). The International Mathematical Union opted otherwise and assigned the upcoming Congress to South Korea. But the MPE 2013 initiative lives on and the legacy of Canada’s mathematical leadership on the world stage lives on.
“Madam Speaker, I rise today to bring your attention to an exciting new project, Mathematics of Planet Earth, which begins in 2013. More than 100 different organizations from around the world have come together to outline mathematics’ integral role in solving real-world issues, including energy freedom, medical challenges, and weather events.” That was Susan Truppe’s counterpart in the US, Jerry McNerney (Democrat-California) addressing the U.S. House of Representatives to announce MPE2013.
The Director-General of UNESCO, Irena Bokova, said, “UNESCO strongly supports this extraordinary collaboration of mathematicians around the world to advance research on fundamental questions about planet Earth, to nurture a better understanding of global issues, to help inform the public, and to enrich the school curriculum about the essential role of mathematics in the challenges facing our planet.”
“This broad initiative seeks to involve some of the world’s finest minds to solve some of the world’s toughest problems,” said Brian Conrey, leader of MPE2013 in the United States and Director of the American Institute of Mathematics.
What’s math got to do with planet earth? Well, the applications of mathematics to MPE problems are essentially infinite (to use a mathematical term): Here are some of those displayed by the American Mathematical Society.
- Harnessing Wind Power: poster and podcast
- Sustaining the Supply Chain (Preparing distribution networks for disasters): poster and podcast
- Sounding the Alarm (Tsunami warnings): poster and podcast
- Building Efficiently: poster
- Getting It Together (Math and collective motion): poster and podcast
- Going with the Floes: poster and podcast
- Burying Carbon Dioxide: poster
- Finding Oil: poster
- Predicting Storm Surge: poster and podcast
- Revealing Nature’s Secrets: poster
- Forecasting Weather: poster
- Describing the Oceans: poster
As for the long-term problems in which mathematics will play a role, we mention the challenges of quantifying uncertainty in climate change, of constructing more accurate predictions of natural disasters including earthquakes, volcanoes, and tsunamis, of trying to adapt ecosystems to climate change, of devising sustainable economic models, and of contributing to the preservation of biodiversity.
And this is how the Banff International Research Station is planning to contribute to such a timely initiative:
New Perspectives on the N-body Problem in celestial mechanics, January 13 – 18, 2013. Organizers: Luigi Chierchia (Università ROMA TRE), Vadim Kaloshin (University of Maryland), John Mather (Princeton University), Susanna Terracini (University of Torino)
Water Waves: Computational Approaches for Complex Problems, June 30 – July 5, 2013. Organizers: Walter Craig (McMaster University), Nathan Kutz (University of Washington), Paul Milewski (University of Bath), and Andre Nachbin (Instituto Nacional de Matematica Pura e Aplicada)
Uncovering Transport Barriers in Geophysical Flows, September 22 – 27, 2013. Organizers: George Haller (McGill University), Thomas Peacock (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), and Jean-Luc Thiffeault (University of Wisconsin)
Impact of Climate Change on Biological Invasions and Population Distributions, May 12 -17, 2013. Organizers: Henri Berestycki (L’Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales Paris), Alan Hastings (University of California, Davis), Mark Lewis (University of Alberta), Peter Molnar (Princeton University)
Mathematical Modeling of Indigenous Populations Health, September 27 – 29, 2013. Organizers: Michael Li (University of Alberta), Seyed Moghadas (York University), Beate Sander (Public Health Ontario, University of Toronto), Jianhong Wu (York University)
The Role of Oceans in Climate Uncertainty, October 6 – 11, 2013
Organizers: Montserrat Fuentes (North Carolina State University), Peter Guttorp (University of Washington), and Michael Stein (University of Chicago)
Managing Fire on Populated Forest Landscapes, October 20 – 25, 2013
Organizers: John (Willard) Braun (University of Western Ontario), Charmaine Dean (University of Western Ontario), David Martell (University of Toronto), Douglas Woolford (Wilfrid Laurier University), and Mike Wotton (Canadian Forest Service)
Probabilistic Approaches to Data Assimilation for Earth Systems, February 17 – 22, 2013. Organizers: Mark Buehner (Environment Canada), Alexandre Chorin (University of California, Berkeley), Pierre Gauthier (Université de Québec à Montréal), Kayo Ide (University of Maryland), Robert Miller (Oregon State University)
Non-Gaussian Multivariate Statistical Models and their Applications, May 19 – 24, 2013. Organizers: Narayanaswamy Balakrishnan (McMaster University), Christopher Field (Dalhousie University), Marc Genton (Texas A&M University), and Harry Joe (University of British Columbia)
Current Challenges for Mathematical Modelling of Cyclic Populations, November 10-15, 2013. Organizers: Jonathan Sherratt (Heriot-Watt University), Rebecca Tyson (University of British Columbia Okanagan), and Hao Wang (University of Alberta)