Thursday, January 30, 2014
Mathematics for the masses
Looking at the his large spider brooch and vintage necktie, I knew this NYU Abu Dhabi public talk was going to be interesting at the very least. But while his curious demeanor and deadpan quips did, in fact, do much to entertain, Institut Henri Poincaré director Dr Cédric Villani can talk math to educate just as well. He took us on a journey through the history of modern mathematics, from Riemann to Boltzmann to Kantorovich, illustrating concepts like geodesics, entropy, and linear programming with what I thought were fairly easily-digestible analogies and visuals, and using examples from real life to show how mathematical topics popularly regarded as distant and abstract have actually long been part of the familiar world. He also gave us an first-hand insight into the world of academic mathematics and the lives of mathematicians.