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IMU-Net 33: January 2009

A Bimonthly Email Newsletter from the International Mathematical Union
Editor: Mireille Chaleyat-Maurel, University Paris Descartes, Paris, France


Dear Reader,

Last month I visited India, and among others, I was shown the site of our 2010 Congress in Hyderabad. I also attended a "Pre-ICM" Conference in Delhi.

The ICM is the single most important event in mathematics every 4 years, and its organization, from the work of the local organizers to the Program Committee to the Prize Committees to the publishers of the Proceedings (and many others) is the most important task for our community.

There is sometimes skepticism about the Congress, quoting its large dimensions (for a mathematics meeting), and the fact that a single participant will know only a small fraction of the other participants, and will be able to follow only a small fraction of the section talks. But if you talk with somebody from physics or computer science, or from other branches of science, he or she will be envious of the fact that we mathematicians have such an event, where we can listen to carefully chosen speakers describing the latest developments, where we can award our most important prizes, have panel discussions about important issues, etc.

The Fields Medal and the Nevanlinna Prize themselves are unique in their scope: they award the highest recognition not to old people whose work is known and well recognized already, but to young people and new results, thereby calling the whole community's attention to these young mathematicians and their achievement.

Before I left for my trip to India, several friends wondered about such a trip, mentioning all sorts of dangers from snakes to malaria. If you recall, the particular time was also burdened by the terrorist attacks in Mumbay, and indeed quite a few participants of the conference cancelled their trips. Needless to say, the terrorist attacks had no influence on my visit, except for some increased security at public buildings. And with some caution, it is easy to avoid infections. And India is a country where crime, especially violent crime, is rare. And it is a country of fantastic sceneries, buildings, and people.

So I can recommend visiting India very warmly to everyone, and hope to see you at ICM 2010 in Hyderabad!

Laszlo Lovasz

IMU on the Web: The Digital Library of Mathematical Functions

The Digital Library of Mathematical Functions (DLMF) is a new reference work modeled on the highly referenced 1964 Abramowitz and Stegun Handbook of Mathematical Functions. Its 36 chapters, which survey current knowledge about special functions, were written by distinguished experts, validated by other experts, and supervised by the NIST editorial board, consisting of Frank Olver, Dan Lozier, Ron Boisvert, and Charles Clark. The DLMF is scheduled to appear later this year in a print version, as well as to be released as a free public Web resource at, which currently contains a preview of 5 of the chapters. Among its distinguishing features are references to available software instead of voluminous numerical tables, inclusion of recently established properties, coverage of special functions not previously represented, and extensive and innovative two- and three-dimensional graphics.

Motivated by the Web's potential to radically change the way mathematics is disseminated and used, the DLMF project has inspired NIST to develop new techniques and software for semantically marked-up representations of mathematical formulas, mathematically aware search, and mathematical graphics. These innovations were designed to be used in the DLMF, and also serve as models for similar developments in other areas of mathematics and its applications.

LaTeX was designed to produce beautiful mathematical documents, but lacks means of encoding semantics, that is, the mathematical meaning of the symbols on the page. Since one of its long-term goals is full semantic markup, the DLMF became one of the first large projects to commit to preparing its entire Web site in XML/MathML, which is specifically designed to provide superior rendering of type-set math (the Presentation form of MathML) as well as the encoding of semantic math (the Content form of MathML).

To generate the XML/MathML from the LaTeX source, Bruce Miller, the DLMF's information architect, undertook the task of developing a suitable processor, named LaTeXML. It soon became clear that LaTeXML had much wider potential applications. For example, in a joint project with Jacobs University in Bremen, LaTeXML has been applied to more than 400,000 documents in the preprint archive at For more information, see

Another goal of the DLMF project was to develop a more powerful mathematical search engine, beyond simple bibliographic queries such as author, title, and keywords. In collaboration with Abdou Youssef of George Washington University, NIST undertook a project to provide for search within the DLMF based on queries that contain math fragments. Examples are Ai ^ 2+Bi ^ 2, for formulas containing a sum of squares of Airy functions, int_0 ^ infinity BesselJ, for infinite integrals with the J-Bessel function of order zero in the integrand, and int ? ^ ? for finite or infinite integrals whose integrand contains any variable raised to any power. As with the LaTeXML processor, the mathematical search engine has the obvious potential for applications far beyond the DLMF.

For more information, see

Dan Lozier and Peter Olver

Hyderabad ICM 2010 posters

The organizers of the ICM 2010 have produced three posters to advertise the next International Congress of Mathematicians which will be held in Hyderabad, India on 19-27 August 2010. All mathematical institutions in the world are asked to download, print and post them.

To download the posters go here

Information about the ICM 2010 can be found on the ICM 2010 server:


The 7th Pan African Congress of Mathematicians (PACOM) will be held from Monday 3rd to Saturday 8th of August 2009 in Yamoussoukro (Côte d'Ivoire), at the Félix Houphouët Boigny Foundation for Peace Research, on the theme: New trends in the Development and the applications of Mathematical Sciences.

For more information, please contact the Secretariat of the Congress: Prof. Etienne DESQUITH, African mathematical Union (AMU) Vice-President, West African Region (

We apologize for the recent e-mail that was sent about the African Congress: this was due to an administrative error.

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Previous issues can be seen here.