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IMU-Net 52: March 2012

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


The first MCA will take place in August 5-9, 2013 in the charming city of Guanajuato, Mexico, one of the oldest in the Americas and once the world's leading silver extraction center. The Congress started as an initiative of six major mathematical organizations in the continent:
AMS, the national mathematical societies of Brazil (SBM), Canada (CMS) and Mexico (SMM), SIAM, and UMALCA - Mathematical Union for Latin America and the Caribbean.

Continental/regional mathematical congresses are not unheard of, of course. Best known are the European Congress of Mathematicians and the Latin American Congress of Mathematicians, both of which are being held this year, respectively, in Krakow, Poland and Cordoba, Argentina.

But the challenges are perhaps even bigger for the Mathematical Congress of the Americas, in this most diverse of continents, mathematically and otherwise.
Indeed, the Congress aims not only to highlight the excellence of mathematical achievements in the Americas, within the context of the international arena, but also to foster the scientific integration of all mathematical communities in the continent.

Preparations to ensure that MCA2013 will achieve these goals are well under way.
Plenary and invited speakers have been selected by the Program Committee. Calls have been issued for special session proposals, including sessions associated to Mathematics of Planet Earth 2013 (MPE2013), as well as for nominations to the Prizes created by the MCA organizers. Funds are being raised to support the participation of students and mathematicians.

Marcelo Viana
Vice President of IMU Executive Committee

News from IMU

-  As of February 2012, Algeria is a Member of the International Mathematical Union. For more information on Algeria's Adhering Organization see

- Electronically available books about IMU
With the kind permission of Springer Verlag O. Lehto’s book “Mathematics without borders: A history of the International Mathematical Union” has been scanned and is now made freely available on IMU’S website. One can can download the pdf and djvu files of the book directly as follows: The pdf file (97 MB) is here and that of the djvu file (31 MB) here

Similarly, the book “International Mathematical Congresses: An Illustrated History 1893 – 1986” by D. J. Albers, G. L. Alexanderson, C. Reid published by Springer Verlag is electronically available here.
The direct links to the electronic files are:
The sizes of these file are, 33 MB and 14 MB, respectively.

IMU on the Web

-  World Digital Mathematics Library (WDML)
From June 1-3, 2012 the symposium "The Future World Heritage Digital Mathematics Library: Plans and Prospects" will take place at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington DC. The symposium is organized by IMU's Committee on Electronic Information and Communication (CEIC) that, thus, continues to play a leading role in promoting the establishment of a World Digital Mathematics Library. The goal of the meeting is to develop a viable plan of action to realize the vision of a universally accessible library for the world's mathematics literature of all time.

- An invitation to use MathJax
The use of  mathematical equations in a web page has always been challenging. The first attempts used the standard (ASCII) characters to imitate mathematics so expressions like x^2+y^2=z^2 could be understood. As LaTeX came into vogue, it was used as an encoding of mathematics so that expressions like $\int_{-\infty}^\infty e^{-x^2} dx=\sqrt{\pi}$, while not directly viewable, could at least be interpreted by those sufficiently familiar with LaTeX syntax. The next stage of development involved the insertion of graphic files into the web page. Mathematics text in LaTeX format would be specially denoted, and each such snippet would be sent through LaTeX with the output being converted to a graphics format that could then be inserted into the page. This did allow recognizable mathematics, but it was not without drawbacks: the mathematics would not resize when the page was zoomed resulting in mismatched font sizes between text and mathematicals, and the graphics could not reshape themselves if the page dimensions changed. The arrival of MathJax completely changed this situation.  The different approach is to have the computer supporting the browser use JavaScript to draw the mathematics on the page. This allows a very accurate presentation, with no jaggies (visible pixelation) associated with graphic insertions. It also allows greater access to the things that the browser does best: resizing and reflowing for example.
Want to see if it works with your browser? If you're connected to the net, take the little snippet of HTML code following this paragraph and put it into a file on your computer.  Then open the file with your browser. If all goes well, you will have a centred equation which will remain centred if you change the width of the display. Also, the mathematics will remain perfectly rendered and crisp as you zoom in.

<script type="text/javascript"
Here is a special equation:
\[ e^{i\pi}+1=0\]
The five most important mathematical constants, all in one!

A picture is really worth a thousand words. The adventurous might want to replace the equation in the example with their own favourite, or take the LaTeX example from the first paragraph and see how (beautifully) it appears. There are (intentional) limitations to MathJax. It is designed to render pieces of mathematics rather than complete bodies of text. The browser itself is capable of rendering text quickly, so let it do what it is good at. Don't expect to take your favourite LaTeX paper and just drop it into MathJax. It won't work.
Another limitation is the time it takes JavaScript to render the mathematics. A complicated page with lots of symbols can take many seconds to be completely viewable, especially on a slow computer, so, whenever possible, keep pages short and not too complicated.
Even with these limitations, the range and beauty of LaTeX now displayed by MathJax is impressive.  With the newest version, all of the constructions from the amsmath package, as well as all of the amssymbols are available. In addition, it is possible to use automatic line numbering and some referencing features, just as in LaTeX.

Michael Doob

Perspectives on mathematical publishing

Following a remark by Tim Gowers on his blog, a grassroots movement emerged in which (as of April 2, 2012) almost 9,000 researchers are participating, in a variety of fields; almost 1,700 are mathematicians. More information can be found on, and the Statement of Purpose (SoP) accessible from the website. For the moment, the IMU is in constant liaison with this group, but it is not taking a position on the issue. More precisely, the 4 members of the Executive Committee (EC) who have signed the SoP did this as individuals, not as representatives of the IMU. Nevertheless, the IMU and its EC are following the development with interest, and hope that the protest, as expressed in the SoP, against some practices by publishers of mathematical journals, will ultimately lead to negotiations and changes of these practices that will benefit the whole mathematical community.
More about this in the next IMU-Net issue.

Ingrid Daubechies
President of IMU Executive Committee

2011 ICMI Medalists

The ICMI (International Commission for Mathematical Instruction) Award Committee has decided on the Medalists for 2011. They are:

*Felix Klein Medal for lifetime achievement:
Alan H. Schoenfeld, University of California at Berkeley, USA, in recognition of his more than thirty years of sustained, outstanding lifetime achievements in mathematics education research and development.

*Hans Freudenthal Medal for a major cumulative programme of research:
Luis Radford, Université Laurentienne, Sudbury, Canada, in recognition of the theoretically well-conceived and highly coherent research programme over the past two decades which has had a significant impact on the community.

A. Schoenfeld and L. Radford will be honoured at ICME-12 in Seoul.

Abel Prize 2012

The Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters has decided to award the Abel Prize for 2012 to Endre Szemerédi (Alfréd Rényi Institute of Mathematics, Budapest and Department of Computer Science, Rutgers, USA). He receives the Abel Prize for his fundamental contributions to discrete mathematics and theoretical computer science, and in recognition of the profound and lasting impact of these contributions on additive number theory and ergodic theory.
The President of the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters, Nils Christian Stenseth, announced the winner of the 2012 Abel Prize at the Academy in Oslo today, 21 March. Endre Szemerédi will receive the Abel Prize from His Majesty King Harald at an award ceremony in Oslo on 22 May.
The Abel Prize recognizes contributions of extraordinary depth and influence to the mathematical sciences and has been awarded annually since 2003. It carries a cash award of NOK 6,000,000 (close to EUR 800,000 or USD 1 million).

Ingrid Daubechies, winner of the 2011 Okawa Prize

Ingrid Daubechies, President of IMU, is awarded the 2011 Okawa Prize for outstanding contributions to the theory and applications of wavelets. The "Okawa Prize Commemorative Symposium 2011" took place on March 16 2012 in Tokyo.

Mathematics of Planet Earth 2013 (MPE 2013)

The MPE2013 website ( now highlights several thematic programs organized by institutes, as well as a series of workshops and summer schools that will take place around the world.
Several societies or unions have decided to celebrate MPE2013 during their annual or regional meetings, including AMS, CMS (Canada), MAA, SMAI, CELMEC, IAMG, IUGG, and more may still decide to do so.
The Mathematics of Planet Earth Competition for an open source exhibition of virtual modules is part of the world initiative “Mathematics of Planet Earth 2013” (MPE2013).
The modules submitted to the competition will be part of a permanent Mathematics of Planet Earth Open Source Exhibition of Virtual Modules. The modules could be reproduced and utilized by many users around the world from science museums to schools, under a Creative Commons license. Examples of modules or themes to be covered are available on the website. The competition is open till September 15, 2012. Special issues of magazines on MPE will be produced and distributed in the schools, including Accromath and Pi in the Sky in Canada. Exchange and translations of articles are encouraged.
An MPE-Newsletter is published every two months. You can subscribe on the MPE 2013 website.

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