The Unravelers: Mathematical Snapshots by Jean-Francois Dars, Annick Lesne, Anne Papillault

By Jean-Francois Dars, Annick Lesne, Anne Papillault

Via revealing images and accompanying textual content, this ebook deals a fascinating and gorgeous glimpse into the internal lifetime of the Institut des Hautes Etudes Scientifiques (IHES). The IHES in France is an institute of complicated learn in arithmetic and theoretical physics with an curiosity in epistemology and the heritage of technology. It offers exceedingly proficient scientists with a spot the place they could commit themselves totally to their examine, freed from educating and administrative constraints, and gives them the chance to ask viewers with whom they want to paintings.

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Thibault Damour 41 One is allowed to linger a little at the Guermantes’. Among all the algorithms created by Proust, there is one thanks to which a gesture, a word may bring to life the past of a place, the metamorphoses which have taken place before it becomes, for a moment, our reality. Cécile DeWitt created the Summer School at les Houches, Yvonne Choquet-Bruhat was the first woman elected to the Academy of Science. Meeting them in the lounge at teatime, as one might greet the Duchess walking in the Bois de Boulogne, suddenly fills the room with the heraldry of modern physics.

For me, working in mathematics is an escape route into an ideal world, where the journey is limited only by one’s own limitations. The country is full of truths to be learned or truths to be discovered; I love to learn, but it is fantastic to find a new truth, even a very small one. A mathematical result concerning a model coming from physics has a very special flavour, because it presages a yet unknown property of the inexhaustible reality we are immersed in. How pleased the researcher is, even if the discovery is a very minor one!

1989. 44 Yvonne Choquet-Bruhat Pierre and Marie Curie University CNRS Silver Medal Knowing, Understanding, Discovering A great mystery which presents itself to each one of us is that we are conscious of two distinct entities—our thought and the outside world. “I think, therefore I am,” said Descartes. However, all of us (or nearly all of us) admit that “the other” also exists. A reality that each of us yearns, in one way or another, to know, in order to master it or simply to understand it. But what does it mean, “to understand”?

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