IMU-Net 12: July 2005

A Bimonthly Email Newsletter from the International Mathematical Union
Editor: Mireille Chaleyat-Maurel, Universit&eacute René Descartes, Paris, France

CONTENTS

  1. Editorial
  2. International Commission of Mathematical Instruction (ICMI)
  3. International Commission on the History of Mathematics (ICHM)
  4. Abel Prize
  5. IMU on the Web
  6. ICM 2006
  7. IMU logo
  8. Subscribing to IMU-Net
________________________________________________________________________

1. EDITORIAL

Mathematics for Development?

Most of us by now are familiar with the critical role of science and
technology as primary drivers of economic development. Economists began
to clarify the role of new knowledge in economic productivity soon
after World War II, beginning with the pioneering work of Robert Solow.
Since then, many other scholars have estimated the rate of return on
public investments in S&T, which range from 20 to 67%; calculations of
the social rate of return are as high as 110%. The power of basic
research is even more apparent when one recalls how often its
applications have led to new industries of great financial consequence.
One thinks of the Internet (from basic research in communications
networks), biotechnology (from basic research on the molecular
mechanisms of DNA); the laser (from basic research on the interaction
of light with atoms); transistors and integrated circuits (from basic
research on the atom by Heisenberg and the development of quantum
mechanics by Schrodinger). We must pause here to emphasize that
mathematics is by no means an “applied” science at its heart. Indeed,
mathematicians have a kind of pride at inhabiting an elegant, abstract
world that often seems remote from the everyday. Mathematical concepts
have a mysterious esthetic quality; mathematical symbols are as hard to
grasp for most people as hieroglyphics or clouds.

However, the world of mathematics seems to have entered a new age of
interactivity with the other sciences, as Martin Groetschel wrote in
this space in the May issue. The attempt to understand the extreme
complexities of string theory, for example, has led a group of
theoretical physicists deep into mathematics, beyond traditional
mathematical physics. The growing importance of cryptography to the
Internet has led theoretical computer scientists to the elusive concept
of “efficient computation.” One of the fastest-growing new partnerships
is that between mathematicians and biologists in neuroscience,
computational biology, immunology, epidemiology, drug design, and other
areas.

A number of mathematicians, including Mohamed Hassan, Jacob Palis
(former Secretary and President of IMU), and myself been involved in an
effort called the Millennium Science Institute (MSI),  which seeks to
strengthen science and technology in the developing world. The African
Mathematics MSI has been designed not only to strengthen graduate
education but also to prepare and network students for the growing
universe of interdisciplinarity. I am continually impressed by how many
activities now depend on their quantitative component, including health
care, environmental studies, energy, agriculture, economics, and other
social sciences. Some African leaders have already recognized the need
to place science and technology in their development budgets, and I
cannot think it will be long before they see how many urgent issues
require the participation of mathematicians.

Earlier in this century, no less a figure than the physicist Eugene
Wigner wrote about “the unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics in
the natural sciences.” Nowadays, Prof. Wigner might not be surprised to
note this effectiveness in communications, transportation, finance,
and, yes, economic development.

Phillip A. Griffiths
Secretary of IMU

                                                     -> back to contents

2. ICMI



                                                     -> back to contents




3. ICHM

The International Commission for the History of   Mathematics (ICHM)
continues to pursue its dual aims of encouraging the study of the history
of mathematics and of promoting a high level of historically and
mathematically sophisticated scholarship in the field internationally.

The ICHM is presently compiling a database of information on historians
of mathematics around the world.  Relative to this World Directory
effort, the ICHM has published “calls” to the international community
of historians of mathematics to alert them to the existence of both the
website and the questionnaire.  These have appeared in journals
Historia Mathematica, the Newsletter of the British Society for the
History of Mathematics, the Newsletter of the Canadian Society for the
History and Philosophy of Mathematics, and the Newsletter of the
Chinese History of Mathematics Society (in Chinese), among others. It
is the ICHM's hope that a reasonably complete database of historians of
mathematics will be available by the end of 2005.

Historia Mathematica is the official journal of the ICHM. It appears
four times annually and publishes roughly 525 pages of original
research in the history of mathematics from all times and cultures.
From 2003 to the present, it has been edited by Craig Fraser (Canada)
and Benno van Dalen (Germany). It is published by Elsevier Science and
is available electronically to subscribers of IDEAL.

The Kenneth O. May Medal is awarded every four years to the historian
or historians of mathematics whose work best exemplifies the high
scholarly and intellectual contributions to the field that May worked
so hard to achieve. It was awarded for the fifth time at a special
ceremony in Utrecht, The Netherlands on 30 June, 2005 to Henk Bos (The
Netherlands) for his ground-breaking work on the history of
seventeenth-century mathematics.

For more, see:
http://www.math.uu.nl/ichm

                                                     -> back to contents

4. ABEL PRIZE

The 2006 Abel Prize Award Ceremony took place in Oslo on Tuesday 23 May
2006. The videos from the Award Ceremony and from the Abel Lectures
are  now available at the  website
http://www.abelprisen.no/en/multimedia/

                                                     -> back to contents

5. IMU ON THE WEB

Best Practice for Retrodigitisation

The World Digital Mathematics Library initiative (see
http://www.ceic.math.ca/News/IMUonWeb.shtml#CEIC8) envisions our freely
 navigating the mathematics research literature with clickable
citations readily allowing us to “iterate references“. But there
remain obstructions to realizing that dream. First, all but the quite
recent literature was not in electronic form. Second, almost all but
the very old literature belongs to its copyright owners. However,
worldwide noncommercial retrodigitization initiatives making  their
work freely available (see the draft vision statement at
http://www.ceic.math.ca/Publications/dml_vision.pdf and a brief listing
of major projects at http://www.ceic.math.ca/WDML/projects/

index.shtml)  have dealt with chunks of the old literature.  Moreover,
many publishers have chosen to digitize their back journals  (less
happily, but understandably, they see a need next to recover  the costs
of such endeavours).

In order to assist and promote the digitisation efforts the CEIC has
prepared a draft best practices statement on digitisation; see
http://www.ceic.math.ca/Publications/retro_bestpractices.pdf; comment
is invited.

At its Quadrennial Assembly in Shanghai, 2002, the International
Mathematical Union adopted the following notion: that publishers be
asked to contribute to building the strands of the citation web by
agreeing that electronic materials more than five years old be
seamlessly accessible without financial impediment. Although this
“moving wall” principle has only been sporadically embraced it
presents our best hope for building the citation web.

The opinions incidentally expressed above are not necessarily the
views of any person let alone of any organisation.

Alf  van der Poorten

                                                     -> back to contents

6. ICM 2006

Six new satellites meetings have been approved in the last meeting of  the
Executive Committee of ICM 2006

http://www.icm2006.org -> back to contents

7. IMU logo

The winner of the IMU Logo competition has been chosen. The name of the
winner and the winning design will be unveiled at the ICM 2006 Congress
in Madrid.

                                                     -> back to contents

8. SUBSCRIBING TO IMU-NET

There are two ways of subscribing to IMU-Net:
  1. Click on http://www.mathunion.org/IMU-Net with a Web browser and go to the “Subscribe“ button to subscribe to IMU-Net online.
  2. Send an e-mail to imu-net-request@mathunion.org with the Subject: subscribe
In both cases you will get an e-mail to confirm your subscription so that misuse will be minimized. IMU will not use the list of IMU-Net addresses for any purpose other than sending IMU-Net, and will not make it available to others. Previous issues can be seen at: http://www.mathunion.org/Publications/Newsletter/archive/ -> back to contents