Archive for the ‘academia’ Category

The Genestier-V.Lafforgue preprint is out, and V.Lafforgue’s crypto-currency proposal for refereeing

September 6, 2017

[Posted on september 6, 2017.]

Alain Genestier and Vincent Lafforgue have very recently posted a preprint which is the long-awaited follow-up to V.Lafforgue’s 2012 paper on the Langlands Correspondance (whose current version of august 2017 seems to be close to print, since it acknowledges the “extremely thorough” input from several referees).

On V.Lafforgue’s webpage there is a very interesting note from january 2017 titled A proposition to give value to the work of referees which introduces the idea of a crypto-currency to reward referees (!), provides concrete technical specifications to implement and test the idea, and explores potential drawbacks.

I haven’t seen it discussed on the web yet, but I very much hope it will become widely read, and that a suitable version will emerge and be given a try by several large institutions…

Programmer’s laptop by Wall Boat on flickr


Early september 2017 items

September 3, 2017

[Posted on september 3, 2017.]

Various short news :

  • Go Yamashita has posted a few days ago his version of Shinichi Mochizuki’s work on the abc conjecture (and he also has posted an excerpt of an email which, together with a footnote, alludes to some unethical behaviour from a certain I.F. Hopefully, whether or not it is the case, this type of controversy will stay away from the math itself.)
  • the arXiv overlay journal Épiga has finally released its first papers
  • it has been announced today that the french Secretary of State in Digital Affairs, Mounir Mahjoubi, has asked Cédric Villani to write a report on how France should define a strategy for the coming years regarding the rise of AI, due in 3 months (it will start from the report done 6 months ago on the topic)
  • earlier this summer, the Comité de candidature à l’organisation de l’ICM 2022 issued a communiqué saying that although the IMU had stated a preference for St-Petersburg and that it was customary for other candidacies to withdraw before the next Genral Assembly, they would still present the candidacy of Paris next year…
  • a high-quality conference on Differential Geometry will be held at IHÉS next december in memory of the late Marcel Berger
  • US-based mathematicians have the opportunity to apply to the collaboration grants of the Simons Foundation announced this week
  • Norbert Blum has withdrawn his paper on P vs NP
  • today at least Annals of Mathematics is running low on papers in the to appear section (I wonder if an issue ever got delayed due to a lack of accepted papers…)

Logic cookies by Steve Rainwater on flickr

News roundup, and binary Cantor orthogonality

August 15, 2017

[Posted on august 15, 2017.]

Summer news:


Completely unrelatedly, here’s probably another useless idea from this blog’s host. Consider a sequence (a_n)_{n\in\mathbb{N}^*} of binary numbers in [0,1] such that the number of digits of a_n is at least equal to n for all n. Then one can apply Cantor’s diagonal argument to extract a number that is uniquely defined (since a digit different from 0 must be 1 and vice versa) and different from all the a_n. Call the resulting number the “binary Cantor orthogonal” of that sequence. Can it have any useful properties?

Let’s look at the following example: a_n:=[1/p_n]_2, the binary version of the inverse of the n-th prime. That is, we do:

\displaystyle \begin{array}{ccl}  \frac{1}{2}& =& 0.1\\  \frac{1}{3}& = & 0.01010101\dots \\  \frac{1}{5}& =& 0.001100110011\dots\\  \frac{1}{7}&=& 0.001001001001\dots\\  \frac{1}{11}&=& 0.0001011101\dots\\  \vdots  \end{array}


then extract the diagonal of the decimal parts and invert it modulo 2. The resulting sequence is 0,0,0,1,1,1,0,0,1,0,1,0,0,1,1,0,0… Unfortunately, the OEIS doesn’t know this particular sequence, so there’s probably nothing noticeable here.

Jardin des Roses in Rennes (a small area of this marvel).

August 2017. Public domain

Cédric Villani and other academics at Assemblée Nationale

June 25, 2017

[Posted on june 25, 2017.]

Some observations on the newly elected members of Assemblée Nationale:


In other news:

  • Jean-Pierre Kahane passed away at 90
  • Peter Scholze, who has recently been elected to the Leopoldina, has a recent preprint titled Étale cohomology of diamonds which is not yet on the arXiv.
  • a 10-year-old in Cameroon who enjoys math is nearing the end of the high school curriculum there, hopefully he’ll then get the University-level education he deserves (and surely he’s not the only one)
  • I’ve updated my list of Diamond OA journals in mathematics to include Acta Mathematica and Arkiv för Matematik
  • a strange editor’s note in the current issue of Annals of Mathematics, whereby they withdraw a 2001 paper without saying why, and it appears that the paper was never cited in the 16 ensuing years (at least according to google scholar), which is very odd.[update: see this story on Retraction Watch (h/t anon)]

Paris, France by Bob Hall on flickr

The currency of mathematics: ideas vs proofs

February 12, 2017

[Posted on february 12, 2017.]

Quanta magazine has come up with yet another stellar wide-audience article, this time by Kevin Hartnett on the work of several authors in symplectic geometry.

It contains this great quote by Mohammed Abouzaid:

There are two conceptions of mathematics,” Abouzaid said. “There’s mathematics as: The currency of mathematics is ideas. And there’s mathematics as: The currency of mathematics is proofs. It’s hard for me to say on which side people stand. My personal attitude is: The most important thing in mathematics is ideas, and the proofs are there to make sure the ideas don’t go astray.

It’s probably the most reasonable take on that topic.

Now what are other areas of mathematics that have been impacted by these two conceptions in recent years? Of course, the work of Perelman and the controversy with the Cao-Zhu paper quickly comes to mind, but this was then modified by Cao-Zhu within a few months so that the ideas-conception won in that instance.

Are there others, either form the distant past or the recent few years? Feel free to mention any, that’s be insteresting to study.

The mooring line, by Bernard Spragg NZ on flickr

Mirzakhani, Lindenstrauss, Witten, McMullen, Zelmanov sign petition against Trump’s immigration EO

January 28, 2017

[Posted on january 28, 2017.]

Fields Medalists Maryam Mirzakhani, Elon Lindenstrauss, Curtis T. McMullen, Edward Witten and Efim Zelmanov are, with several other prominent US-based mathematicians, among the earliest signatories of the Academics Against Immigration Executive Order petition, and well done to them ! [Edit: Terence Tao and Vladimir Voevodsky also signed.][Further edit: so have Pierre Deligne, Vladimir Drinfeld and Andrei Okounkov.] [Further edit: the members of the Board of Trustees of the AMS also signed and issued a statement.]

All Cedram journals are now Diamond Open Access

January 17, 2017

[Posted on january 17, 2017.]

As mentionned previously on this blog, starting this month all Cedram journals are now Diamond Open Access, so it adds Annales de la Faculté des Sciences de ToulouseAnnales Mathématiques Blaise Pascal, and  Journal de Théorie des Nombres de Bordeaux to the others.  A fantastic piece of news, and I’ve updated my list of DOA Mathematics Journals to reflect this.


In other news:

  •  Olivia Caramello has put online her recent HDR Thesis as well as the (very laudatory) referee report
  • Notices of the AMS has a nice piece by Henry Cohn on the sphere packing breakthrough
  • talks by Emmanuel Lepage and by Wojtek Porowski on Shinichi Mochizuki’s IUT are taking place in Nottingham

Cliffs of Moher by khdc on flickr

(Alternative title: ‘compromise’ is not a swear word)

AMS data on the backlog of math journals

November 11, 2016

[Posted on november 11, 2016.]

Since every year in november a new batch of data regarding the backlogs of mathematics research journals is published in Notices of the AMS, let’s look at this a little. Here is the data from the past 6 years : 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009.

Now, while backlogs are one thing, perhaps the most significant column is “Median Time (in months) from Submission to Final Acceptance”. The results for a subjective selection of some of the most well-known titles are as follows (click to enlarge) :


Those median times are thus usually very steady and under 12 months, which is conforting, but with some occasional sudden marked increases for the very select journals that can reach 20 months, which can be a problem for young folks on the job market…

Are there important informations from the whole data worth mentioning beyond this? Comments welcome.


In other news, some items noticed recently :

  • there will be a Gabberfest next june at IHÉS with an A-list of speakers (there are several anecdotes about Gabber’s aura on the web, whether on MO or blogs)
  • next summer at the Newton Institute is due to take place a promising Big Proofs Programme aimed “at the challenges of bringing proof technology into mainstream mathematical practice
  • the Institut Fourier turns 50
  • the 5th digit in arXiv identifiers was used fo the first time last month, the counter reaching 10100
  • integral calculus was performed for the first time by Leibnitz on this very day, some 341 years ago
  • some people are remarkably versatile: Pierre Jalinière’s very recent PhD Thesis deals with “three independent works in cryptography, p-adic Hodge theory and Numerical analysis“!

Heart-shaped devotion by Marneejill on flickr

(which, for some reason, I’m inclined to rename as Two Americas…)

Some august 2016 news: Epiga, mathinfoly, …

August 8, 2016

[Posted on august 8, 2016.]

  • The first mathematics journal produced by, a platform for arXiv overlay journals, has been listed recently. It is Epiga, which stands for Épijournal de Géométrie Algébrique.  (Well, technically there is also the Hardy-Ramanujan journal, which previously existed as a paper journal and which adopted the Episciences platform in 2014, but it hasn’t published anything  for a year and a half.)    The editorial board of Epiga looks like it contains many very distinghuised people, so while it has not published any papers yet, it will probably be a high-quality journal. Let’s see how that pans out…
  • Jumping to another topic, it is fantastic that a summer school for interested high-schoolers, mathinfoly2016, will take place in a fortnight at ENS Lyon : the set of speakers looks great and diverse (and it includes in particular recent EMS prize winner Vincent Calvez). The courses will be completely in french (which is better for that age group I think).
  • At CIRM the semester on Ergodic Theory and Dynamical Systems and their Applications to Number Theory (within the setting of a Jean Molet Chair to Mariusz Lemańczyk) has just started.    One can still register to the december conference (which has an impressive list of speakers and a scientific comitee that includes Artur Avila–is he turning his powers to Number Theory? That would be great!) as well as to the doctoral school (deadline early september).
  • Finally there’s a nice portrait here of Jean-Pierre Serre, who turns 90 this year, on the occasion of a talk he gave last month in Bordeaux. He still has “projects in the fridge”!

Pic du Cap Roux, Antheor Saint-Raphael, by Cedric Biennais on flickr

Consequences of Brexit on mathematics

June 30, 2016

[Posted on june 30, 2016]

Like many observers, I have been quite stunned by the result. So, even though I have no legitimaticy for this (as I’m not an academic — I do have a british PhD but to some Leavers this is a bias), I’m posting this to gather opinions on possible impacts of Brexit on mathematics : both straightforward ones and chain reactions. I’d like in particular to explore how to mitigate the effects of the negative ones.

For general issues beyond mathematics there are several relevant articles in the THES : on EU grant application, (and that earlier one) and on non-british students and academics. (Edit 02 july: see also these frightening figures for Cambridge alone). As yet, Article 50 has not been triggered, so what follows only makes sense under the hypothesis that at some point before the end of the year it will.

1) Clearly one specific issue for mathematics is the health and standing of the UK math departments :

1.a) what is the share of EU-funded Postdocs and Postgraduates students there ? In particular what are the numbers in the very select places like Cambridge, Oxford, Imperial, Warwick… ?

1.b) what is the annual share of EU-funded conferences ?

How to mitigate a potentially complete stop to both funding and free movement ? Might a form of dual diplomas and dual conference system work (systematically coupling things with an EU partner that has funding)  ?

2) One possible ripple effect is the movement of academics to nearby EU countries (or Switzerland) to follow that pool of students and postdocs :

2.a) which continental places would likely benefit, and would they actively try to lure away UK-based mathematicians ?

2.b) what about the US and Canada, is brexit seen as an opportunity there to recruit UK-based mathematicians ?

3) Are there specific mathematics-related issues not mentioned above ?

(Note: the comments to this post will go to the moderation queue, which I can review about twice a day usually).

Brexit logo by swissbert on flickr