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A 2012 Survey

December 31, 2011

Questions we must ask

The Harrisburg Pennsylvanian, a newspaper, conducted one of the earliest political polls. Their poll in 1824 correctly showed Andrew Jackson leading John Quincy Adams by 335 votes to 169 in the contest for the United States Presidency.

Today I want to discuss the future of GLL, since 2012 is potentially a special year.

Note {2012 = 4 \times 503} and {503} is a prime number. The 97^{th} actually. I have no idea what this has to do with the 2012 predictions, but I thought noting it’s a sizable prime multiplied by a power of 2 would add to the mix.

The Survey

The questions are all about what famous mathematicians would be doing in 2012, with one exception.

Click here to take survey

Open Problems

Have a great New Year celebration. Be safe and ready for a great new year.

[Expanded poll's "Other" option to allow saying what your own favorite historical mathematician would be doing in 2012---e.g. as prompted by Gaurav in comments, Ramanujan:Creating numerical formulas for instances of #P functions; tweaked wording]

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16 Comments leave one →
  1. December 31, 2011 12:58 pm

    Took your survey. I really enjoyed it but later I thought what would be Ramanujan doing in 2012 : Celebrating National Mathematical Day in India or Creating more number theoretic formulas?. BTW Happy new year, Sir!

    • rjlipton permalink*
      December 31, 2011 1:29 pm

      Gaurav Tiwari,

      Great question. Happy New Year too.

    • December 31, 2011 2:00 pm

      Hi, Gaurav—your reply prompted an even better idea. We didn’t add Ramanujan to the survey, to keep things equal for others who have seen it, but we edited the legend of the last question’s “Other” field to suggest doing likewise for any historical mathematician you like.

    • December 31, 2011 10:55 pm

      PS: National Mathematical Day should be National Mathematical Year

  2. December 31, 2011 2:09 pm

    “The 97th actually” – 97 is a prime number as well: “The numbers 97, 907, 9007, 90007 and 900007 are happy primes” ( :-)
    Happy New Year!

  3. Serge permalink
    January 1, 2012 6:50 am

    Happy new year to all !

  4. Mario permalink
    January 1, 2012 8:10 am

    What about your 2012 predictions? 2011 ones where so great, looked forward for one year!

    kind regards! :)

  5. January 2, 2012 9:27 am

    In effect, the write-in options of this wonderful GLL Poll authorize and encourage us to design programs that harness the talents of these mathematicians.

    Here is one such program. Apologies are requested in advance, in the event that the LaTeX does not parse (I am using Luca Trevisan’s package to generate this post).

    (Note: Emmy Noether and Paul Dirac have been optionally recruited.)


    Introductory Remarks

    Mathematicians, welcome to the 21st century. You have been brought forward in time to provide our 21st century world with mathematical guidance regarding a Synthesis for Helping our World (SHOW).

    Background: Our 21st century world has {7\times10^{9}} persons living upon it. Our world’s resources are in short supply, and that supply is growing shorter; our world has grown hot from carbon-burning, and it is becoming hotter; our world is hard-pressed to ensure for our young people lives of reasonable security, dignity, and prosperity, and it is this shortfall most of all that you are chartered to mitigate, by all of the mathematical arts and creativity that you command.

    SHOW: The Synthesis for Helping our World (SHOW) is a global program that seeks to remediate these problems, at the fastest feasible pace, with the greatest feasible assurance of success, by whatever sustainment of effort that your mathematical analysis indicates shall be required.

    Your roles in SHOW will be assigned following a half-hour coffee break. Refreshments are at the back of the room.

    (the following slide is projected)


    {\begin{array}{l} \begin{array}[b]{r|ccccccccc|} \multicolumn{1}{c}{} & \text{\makebox[1.45em][c]{Noe}}&                 \text{\makebox[1.45em][c]{Gau}}&                              \text{\makebox[1.45em][c]{New}}&                                            \text{\makebox[1.45em][c]{Dir}}&                                                       \text{\makebox[1.45em][c]{Tur}}&                                                                     \text{\makebox[1.45em][c]{vNe}}&                                                                                 \text{\makebox[1.45em][c]{G\"od}}&                                                                                               \text{\makebox[1.45em][c]{Eul}}&                                                                                               						 \multicolumn{1}{c}{\text{\makebox[1.45em][c]{Euc}}}\\[0ex] \cline{2-10} \rule{0pt}{3.25ex}\text{Naturality}&    \bigstar&       \cdot&       \cdot&       \cdot&\blacksquare&       \star&       \cdot&\blacksquare&\blacksquare\\[1ex] \text{Pullback}  &\blacksquare&    \bigstar&       \cdot&\blacksquare&       \cdot&       \star&\blacksquare&       \cdot&       \cdot\\[1ex] \text{Sensing}   &       \cdot&       \cdot&    \bigstar&\blacksquare&       \cdot&       \star&       \cdot&\blacksquare&\blacksquare\\[1ex] \text{Transport} &       \cdot&\blacksquare&       \cdot&    \bigstar&\blacksquare&       \star&\blacksquare&       \cdot&       \cdot\\[1ex] \text{Healing}   &\blacksquare&       \cdot&\blacksquare&       \cdot&    \bigstar&       \star&\blacksquare&       \cdot&       \cdot\\[1ex] \text{Enterprise}&       \cdot&\blacksquare&\blacksquare&       \cdot&       \cdot&    \bigstar&       \cdot&\blacksquare&\blacksquare\\[1.125ex] \cline{2-10} \end{array} \\[0.5ex] \begin{array}[b]{@{\quad}c@{\quad}l} \rule{0pt}{3ex}\star&\text{committee coordinator}\\[1ex] \bigstar&\text{committee chair}\\[1ex] \blacksquare&\text{committee member}\\[1ex] \cline{1-2} \end{array} \\[0.5ex] \begin{array}{r@{\,=\,}l@{\quad\quad}r@{\,=\,}l@{\quad\quad}r@{\,=\,}l} \text{\makebox[1.45em][r]{Dir}}&\text{Dirac}& \text{\makebox[1.45em][r]{Gau}}&\text{Gauss}& \text{\makebox[1.45em][r]{New}}&\text{Newton}\\[1ex] \text{\makebox[1.45em][r]{Euc}}&\text{Euclid}& \text{\makebox[1.45em][r]{G\"od}}&\text{G\"odel}& \text{\makebox[1.45em][r]{Tur}}&\text{Turing}\\[1ex] \text{\makebox[1.45em][r]{Eul}}&\text{Euler}& \text{\makebox[1.45em][r]{Noe}}&\text{Noether}& \text{\makebox[1.45em][r]{vNe}}&\text{von Neumann}\\[1ex] \end{array} \end{array} }

  6. January 2, 2012 10:48 am

    SHOW Part II

    Welcome back! It was good to see such lively discussions around the coffee table. Please let me say that the following committee assignments are provisional, in the sense that any mutually agreed pair of you may exchange assignments, with notification to Professor von Neumann, who has agreed to serve as the overall committee coordinator.

    The Naturality Committee is tasked with coordinating the notations and formalisms of all committees, and with developing a curriculum for communicating that natural mathematical formalism to student mathematicians at the earliest feasible stage of their education. In service of this task, the Naturality Committee shall have the authority to provide one year of accelerated instruction in natural mathematical methods to an unbounded number of students, at any stage of their education. This committee shall be chaired by Emmy Noether, with members Alan Turing, Leonhard Euler, and Euclid of Alexandria.

    The Pullback Committee is tasked with integrating all elements of mathematics relating to the natural pullback of geometric, dynamical, and informatic structures from larger-dimension state-spaces to smaller-dimension state-spaces. In service of this task, the term state-space shall include, by way of nonlimiting example, sets both discrete and smooth, and the term structure similarly shall include metric, symplectic, and informatic structures. This committee shall be chaired by Carl Gauß, with members Emmy Noether, Paul Dirac, and Kurt Gödel.

    The Sensing Committee is tasked with the attainment, to the maximal extent allowed by the natural laws of classical and quantum physical dynamics, a comprehensive capability for observing all the structures of our planet world, both natural and artificial, both biological and nonliving, from the scale of atoms to the scale of the world as a whole; moreover the Committee is tasked also with curating and sustaining open public access to the resulting all-scale whole-planet database. This committee shall be chaired by Sir Isaac Newton, with members Paul Dirac, Leonhard Euler, and Euclid of Alexandria.

    The Transport Committee is tasked with the optimization of dynamical transport phenomena, as broadly interpreted by way of nonlimiting example to include: the separative transport of heat energy, chemical composition, isotopic composition, and spin magnetization; the error-corrected transport of information both classical and quantum, and the biological transmission of information by genetic and epigenetic. This committee shall be chaired by Paul Dirac, with members Carl Gauß, Alan Turing, and Kurt Gödel.

    The Healing Committee is tasked with the optimizing the evolution of dynamical systems toward favorable homeostatic equilibria, as broadly interpreted to encompass both spontaneous and directed evolutions, in systems both both biological and nonliving, with particular but nonlimiting emphasis upon healing in medical contexts both physical and psychological, within an integrative mathematical framework provided by the Naturality, Pullback, Sensing, and Transport Committees. This committee shall be chaired by Alan Turing, with members Emmy Noether, Sir Isaac Newton, and Kurt Gödel.

    The Enterprise Committee is tasked with the conception and initiation of enterprises of a scope and scale sufficient as to provide, for our planet’s young people, family-supporting jobs in the number of {2\times 10^9}; said jobs to be consonant with work of reasonable utility and dignity and lives of reasonable security and prosperity. In particular, and by way of nonlimiting example, the Committee is tasked to initiate at the fastest feasible pace, with the greatest feasible assurance of success, by whatever sustainment of effort is required, a systematic survey of all biological processes on our planet, at all scales from atomic to cellular to clinical to planetary, as enabled the mathematical and computational toolset specified by the Naturality and Pullback Committees, and the instrumentation specified by the Sensor and Transport Committees, within the homeostatic context specified by the Healing Committee. Moreover, the Enterprise Committee is further tasked to envision further enterprises that will be the natural successors to this initial planetary-scale survey enterprise. The Enterprise Committee shall be chaired by John von Neumann, with members Carl Gauß, Sir Isaac Newton, Leonhard Euler, and Euclid of Alexandria.

    Eminent mathematicians, that concludes your formal briefing, and now may I ask if you have any questions?

    John von Neumann: A question that requires clarification is simply this: Why does the 21st century need us? Are our mathematical talents really so unique, that you cannot answer these urgent questions and undertake these vital programs, on your own?

    Isaac Newton and Kurt Gödel: For the record, we wish to register our extreme dissatisfaction with our committee assignments!

    (No answer being suggested to von Neumann’s question, the remaining time was spent debating committee assignments.)

    • Javaid Aslam permalink
      January 2, 2012 2:59 pm

      Thank you John for charing this program!!

    • Jim Blair permalink
      January 3, 2012 7:51 am


      The folks at the “Washington Post” must be reading your posts.

      Today’s front page has an article titled: At the helm of “Spaceship Earth”.

    • January 3, 2012 3:03 pm

      Thanks, Javaid and Jim! To mention a couple of points: (1) All of the mathematicians that were mentioned in Dick and Ken’s poll (save Gödel perhaps) were similarly successful at creating enterprises as at proving theorems, and so it was natural to imagine specific new enterprises for them … and it would be inspiring if other GLL readers would imagine additional enterprises. (2) For the sake of concreteness, each committee is associated to a STEM enterprise that already is underway.

      With regard to the key concluding question: Does the 21st century really need the help of these eminent mathematicians?, the most nearly irreplaceable of them (it seems to me) is von Neumann … aptly was it said of him (by Rényi among others):

      Other mathematicians prove what they can; von Neumann proves what he wants.

      History records that von Neumann deployed his extraordinary talent deliberately and successfully in launching numerous global-scale 20th century enterprises; plainly our 21st century now requires all the von Neumanns that we can muster.

  7. January 2, 2012 12:50 pm

    Dunno about famous mathematicians, but I will be reading this blog, I hope, and silently thanking the author for sharing the mysteries and delights of the theory of computation.


  1. 2012 Survey Results « Gödel’s Lost Letter and P=NP

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