Musings for Heidelberg

19 September 2013 by Adrian Dudek, posted in Mathematics

It seems that the calendar has pulled one of its oh-so-sneaky moves on me. In less than a week, I will be packing my bags and flying (in an airplane, no doubt) to Germany to attend the first ever Heidelberg Laureate Forum.

Heidelberg, Wikimedia Commons

I don't have much of an idea of what to expect, though I remain unnervingly excited at the prospect of chatting with some of the greatest thinkers of the past century. The main idea of the forum is inspiration; to give the greats a chance to tell us youngsters how they surged to the top floor of maths and computer science.

As a young mathematician, there are many questions which push their way into my head. For me, the HLF will give me answers to these questions, as well as inspiration. Here are some of the questions which plague a budding mathematician.

  1. Can one reach the top of their field and still have a normal life? This is a very real concern that I have, especially during lunchtime soccer excursions and weekend video game ventures. Am I wasting too much time?
  2. What is the most effective way to do research in mathematics? People work differently; some work persistently on a single problem until they achieve a breakthrough, whereas others partition their work time with various problems. I wonder what the greats have done.
  3. How do world class mathematicians feel about exposition in mathematics? I ask, for the mathematician G. H. Hardy once wrote that "exposition, criticism, appreciation, is work for second-rate minds". These are, of course, different times, and so I would be interested to see how others feel.
  4. Can you be too old to do great mathematics? I'm interested in the belief that your best work comes when you are young, or rather, that there is a more pressing deadline in maths than expiration. Indeed, does the Fields medal recognise such a thing also, by stipulating that the awardee be no more than 40 years old?

These are just some of the questions that I seek to answer at the HLF. I will be endeavouring to blog as much as I can, to share everything I learn and experience over what will be one of the biggest weeks of my life.

Stay tuned,

Adrian.

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