IMU-Net 49: September 2011

A Bimonthly Email Newsletter from the International Mathematical Union

Editor: Mireille Chaleyat-Maurel, University Paris Descartes, Paris, France

CONTENTS

1. Editorial

2. John Ball elected on the Executive Board of ICSU

3. News from IMU

4. IMU on the Web

5. Mathematics of Planet Earth

6. Death of Albrecht Dold

7. Subscribing to IMU-Net

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1. EDITORIAL: THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF ICSU IN SEPTEMBER 2011

ICSU is the International Council of Science. Its members are scientific

international unions and nations. Together with other

partnersincluding the United Nations and UNESCO, it plays a

fundamental role in the research areas which require both massive

collaboration and sharing of data, such as the global climate studies

that supported the last report of the Intergovernmental Panel on

Climate Change (IPCC) and which received the Nobel Prize in 2007. Such

studies cannot take place without long term massive support allowing

large scale collaboration of scientists accross disciplines and

countries, and archiving of data of previous studies, a support that

cannot be provided locally at research institutions. The

International Council of Industrial and Applied Mathematics (ICIAM)

is now an associate member of ICSU. Also, John Ball was elected on the

Executive Board of ICSU. All together, this will give a strong voice

for mathematics on ICSU matters. In particular, as explained in my

former editorial in May 2011, ICSU is deeply involved in preparing the

United Nations Conference on Sustainability (called Rio+20) to take

place in Rio in June 201, with the objective of producing a

coordinated message from the scientific community to be forwarded to

Rio+20 itself.

On behalf of IMU, Antonio de la Pena attended the ICSU- UNESCO Rio+20

Workshop organized by the Regional Office of ICSU for Latin America

and the Caribbean

(Mexico City, 3-5 August 2011). The next important events organized by

ICSU is the conference "Planet under Pressure: New Knowledge Towards

Solutions",

London, March 2012 and the ICSU Science Forum May 25-30 2012 in Rio

just prior to Rio+20, this forum being organized jointly with the

International Social Science Council (ISSC) and UNESCO. The General

Assembly of ICSU ended with the address of the new president, Yuan

Tseh Lee, a Nobel Prize-winning chemist from China: Taipei. His

message was very strong: "It is not time to celebrate! If we are to

avoid catastrophe and ensure humanity's continuation on this planet,

the keywords for the next decades will be transformation. That is, we

must begin to transform our global society into a truly sustainable

civilization". He is keen to see ICSU more proactive in finding the

means to further new initiatives in the face of today's challenges,

and determined that the world of science should work together and do

so quickly: "Our primary theme for the coming years must be Action

-and solutions- now".

Christiane Rousseau

Vice President of IMU

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2. JOHN BALL ELECTED ON THE EXECUTIVE BOARD OF ICSU.

The General Assembly elected the officers for the next three year period

and John Ball, former president of IMU, was elected on the Executive

Board of ICSU for a three year period starting January 2012.

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3. NEWS FROM IMU

1. 60th anniversary of IMU after rebirth in 1951.

On 10 September 10 2011, the Internationa Mathematical Union has

celebrated its 60th anniversary after it was reborn in 1951.

In his book "Mathematics without borders, a history of the

International Mathematical Union", Olli Lehto recalls that Börge

Jessen (1907-1993), the Danish Secretary of the Interim Committee of

the IMU 1950-1952, has declared on 10 September 1951 the official

founding of the Union with its first domicile in Copenhagen.

www.mathunion.org/general/history

2. Associate Members.

The IMU Executive Committee approved the applications of IMU's first

two Associate Members, Ecuador and Kyrgyzstan, for renewal of their

associate memberships for the period October 2011 to September 2015.

IMU is looking forward to Ecuador's and Kyrgyzstan's application for

full IMU membership in 2015.

www.mathunion.org/index.php

3. Social Network Facebook

IMU is now alive and active on Facebook under the name "IMU Secretariat

(Mathunion)" as well as under "International Mathematical Union".

If you want to know the latest updates of IMU (and have a Facebook

page or profile):

- become friends of the IMU Facebook account; you just have to search

for : www.facebook.com/mathunion

- click the button LIKE at the institutional webpage:

www.facebook.com/pages/International-Mathematical-Union/190457414332948

Please distribute this information to everyone interested in your own

networks.

4. CDC launches the IMU Mathematics Library Assistance Scheme for

Developing Countries.

IMU's Commission for Developing Countries, has launched a new support

scheme where the shipment of textbooks to universities in less

economically developed countries is supported. CDC offers limited

financial support for shipment costs for individual scientists or

institutions wishing to donate books in the mathematical sciences to

libraries in developing countries.

Libraries in universities/research institutions in developing

countries can apply for receiving donated books.

For more information:

imuweb.mathunion.org/cdc/further-cdc-activities/library-assistance-scheme/

or contact the CDC Administrator in the IMU Secretariat in Berlin:

icmi.cdc.administrator@mathunion.org.

5. The Simons Foundation announces the Africa Mathematics Project.

The program is designed to enhance the mathematical capacity and

productivity of recipient research groups. The project will focus on

mathematicians and their graduate students at institutions of higher

learning in sub-Saharan Africa.

The Foundation will make competitive awards that, taken together, will

total approximately 400,000 USD per year for each of the next10 years.

More information: https://simonsfoundation.org/mps-africa-mathematics-project

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4. IMU ON THE WEB

1. A new member for CEIC (Committee on Electronic Information and

Communication).

I'm pleased to be part of the CEIC. My main reason for agreeing was a

willingness to support the IMU when called upon --- the future of

mathematics relies in an essential way in the ongoing nurturing of the

mathematical community. I'm not sure how I can best contribute, but

perhaps some familiarity with the novel experiments in how technology

is used may help the IMU create structures valuable for the future of

the community. Also, having had some informal conversations with

other young mathematicians about the fact that we were well aware what

the AMS does but had little idea what the IMU did beyond sponsoring

the International Congress, I might possibly help the IMU to do a

better job of communicating its mission to the wider mathematical

community. As a fringe benefit for myself, I've greatly enjoyed

meeting and working with the other committee members, who come from

very different communities (and I don't mean geographically), with

interesting points of view.

Ravi Vakil, Stanford University

math.stanford.edu/~vakil/

and Member, CEIC

2. JSTOR Announces New Program to Release "Early Journal Content" to All

JSTOR, one of the units of ITHAKA. JSTOR has decided to make open access to

approximately 6% of their entire database of journal backfiles. This

will include content published prior to 1923 in the United States, and

prior to 1870 for material published outside the United States and, in

particular, titles of interest to mathematicians from the Royal

Society of London, American Mathematical Society, Mathematical

Association of America, and others.

Please refer to this statement for further specifics of this initiative,

about.jstor.org/participate-jstor/individuals/early-journal-content.

3. Electronic Books and Mathematics: Trials and Pilots.

There is a lot of talk about electronic books, and electronic book

readers, tablets, etc. Princeton University ran a significant Kindle

DX-based pilot (see www.princeton.edu/ereaderpilot/), and

Indiana University recently ran a major trial (see

chronicle.com/blogs/wiredcampus/major-publishers-join-indiana-u-project-that-requires-students-to-use-e-textbooks/33156)

with goal to reduce students' costs. But how well does this suit mathematics,

in particular, mathematics students?

Perhaps over-simplisticly, electronic books come in three formats:

HTML ; PDF (an electronic copy of the paper book, complete with page

numbers); or ePub format. ePub is the format designed for these

readers, and like HTML 5, ePub 3 has (Presentation-only) MathML and

SVG as optional extensions. Firefox supports MathML, but Internet

Explorer 9/10 doesn't. But it is worth noting the perceived importance

of page numbers (see Princeton's report, p. 11).

The Princeton trial did not explicitly involve mathematics, but I was

able to ask some questions of Dr. Allan Edmonds, a mathematician in

the Indiana project.

Q1) What subject area and books did you use?

A1) The course was introductory numerical methods, a low level course with

only basic calculus as a prerequisite, and not a prerequisite for higher

level courses. Because of this, I have a great amount of freedom over course

content. The book was NUMERICAL ANALYSIS by T. Sauer, from

Pearson-Addison Wesley.

Q2) Were the books PDF or an e-reader format (or what)?

A2) The textbook was PDF, exact replicas of the printed textbook

pages...no flowing of content between pages, no bad breaks between pages, etc.

Q3) Roughly, what sort of devices did the students use:

laptops/desktops or specialist readers such as Kindle?

A3) Students had to access the book through our university's course

management frontend. They could download heavily watermarked pages to their

own computers, although most did not do that. Best was to print the

particular chapters needed (as usual, less than half the book).

Occasionally, students complained that access was slow and cumbersome. In

principle they could access it from any computer connected to the internet.

I know some used laptops, others used desktop machines, and some used an

iPad. I don't think anyone used a Kindle. Kindle's handling of PDF is not

good enough: One would have to scroll left and right as well as up and down

to see a page, or have it displayed in an impossibly small font size. In

addition, students couldn't download a pure PDF file that could be converted

to Kindle's format or installed on the Kindle--at least as far as I know.

I did not take advantage of the "social media" aspects that the company

pushing e-books is so pleased about: I did no instructor annotations of the

textbook. Students did not share their notes on the textbook.

Q4) Any major issues/challenges?

A4) The book was somewhat more expensive than originally projected. I don't

think the publisher of that book has signed on to the upcoming

university-wide contract for the future.

For a few years I had gotten by without a textbook, just providing free

notes (ordinary PDF), on the order of 100 pages of LaTex. I will go back to

that. And I may revert to my previous plan of requiring a small and

inexpensive MATLAB introductory book instead.

And his bottom line: As an alternative to high priced textbooks, the

e-book option has potential. I plan, however, to return to

distributing informal, free, course notes, instead of a textbook. If I

did not have the course notes available I would consider using the

e-book again.

James Davenport

University of Bath

and Member, CEIC

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5. MATHEMATICS OF PLANET EARTH 2013 (MPE 2013)

Competition for an Open Source Exhibition of Virtual Modules under the

theme of Mathematics of Planet Earth. The competition will be open

from January 2012 to May 15 2012. Details at:

www.mpe2013.org/competition

A newsletter will be launched soon. If you do not receive it, then check

the website (www.mpe2013.org) and register to receive the later issues.

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6. DEATH OF ALBRECHT DOLD ON 26-09-2011.

Albrecht Dold, known for fundamental contributions to algebraic

topology, was born in Germany in 1928. He held positions in Heidelberg,

Zürich, Princeton and Columbia. He has been Vice-president of IMU in 1995-98.

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7. SUBSCRIBING TO IMU-NET

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