Category: rants

  • The hype cycle of an idea

    These three ideas (re)surfaced over the last two decades, claiming to have potential applications to major open problems: (2000) $\mathbb{F}_1$-geometry tries to view $\mathbf{Spec}(\mathbb{Z})$ as a curve over the field with one element, and mimic Weil’s proof of RH for curves over finite fields to prove the Riemann hypothesis. (2012) IUTT, for Inter Universal Teichmuller […]

  • Grothendieck stuff

    January 13th, Gallimard published Grothendieck’s text Recoltes et Semailles in a fancy box containing two books. Here’s a G-translation of Gallimard’s blurb: “Considered the mathematical genius of the second half of the 20th century, Alexandre Grothendieck is the author of Récoltes et semailles, a kind of “monster” of more than a thousand pages, according to…

  • Teapot supremacy

    No, this is not another timely post about the British Royal family. It’s about Richard Borcherds’ “teapot test” for quantum computers. A lot of money is being thrown at the quantum computing hype, causing people to leave academia for quantum computing firms. A recent example (hitting the press even in Belgium) being the move of…

  • We sit in our ivory towers and think

    I’m on vacation, and re-reading two ‘metabiographies’: Philippe Douroux : Alexandre Grothendieck : Sur les traces du dernier génie des mathématiques and Siobhan Roberts : Genius At Play: The Curious Mind of John Horton Conway . Siobhan Roberts’ book is absolutely brilliant! I’m reading it for the n-th time, first on Kindle, then hardcopy, and…

  • in praise of libraries

    I’m back in Antwerp for over a week now, and finally got hold of our copy of Shimura’s “Introduction to the arithmetic theory of automorphic functions”. The sad story of disappearing libraries at our university, and possibly elsewhere (everywhere?). Over 20 years ago our maths department shared a building with the language departments, as well…

  • Smullyan and the President’s sanity

    Smullyan found himself in a very strange country indeed! All the inhabitants of this country are completely truthful – they always tell you honestly what they believe, but the trouble is that about half of the population are totally mad, and all their beliefs are wrong! The other half are totally sane and accurate in…

  • Brancusi’s advice : avoid vampires

    My one and only resolution for 2018: ban vampires from my life! Here’s the story. In the 1920’s, Montparnasse was at the heart of the intellectual and artistic life in Paris because studios and cafés were inexpensive. Artists including Picasso, Matisse, Zadkine, Modigliani, Dali, Chagall, Miro, and the Romanian sculptor Constantin Brancusi all lived there.…

  • The joys of running a WordPress blog

    Earlier today, John Duncan (of moonshine fame) emailed he was unable to post a comment to the previous post: “I went to post a comment but somehow couldn’t convince the website to cooperate.” There’s little point in maintaining a self-hosted blog if people cannot comment on it. If you tried, you got this scary message:…

  • Stirring a cup of coffee

    Please allow for a couple of end-of-semester bluesy ramblings. I just finished grading the final test of the last of five courses I lectured this semester. Most of them went, I believe, rather well. As always, it was fun to teach an introductory group theory course to second year physics students. Personally, I did enjoy…

  • Je (ne) suis (pas) Mochizuki

    Apologies to Joachim Roncin, the guy who invented the slogan “Je suis Charlie”, for this silly abuse of his logo: I had hoped the G+ post below of end december would have been the last I had to say on this (non)issue: (btw. embedded G+-post below, not visible in feeds) A quick recap : –…