Just one week after a polar vortex plunged much of the United States into a record-breaking deep freeze, milder weather greeted the mathematicians, students, and others who attended the 2014 Joint Mathematics Meetings in Baltimore.
The attendees were there to sample an overwhelming array of offerings: invited lectures, contributed papers, panel discussions, minicourses, poster sessions, committee meetings, receptions, exhibits, construction projects, and much more.
The Baltimore Sun, in a report by Julie Scharper, summed it up in this way: “What’s 6,000 mathematicians, multiplied by 2,500 talks, divided over five days? The nation’s largest gathering devoted to the science—and art—of math.”
Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake made an appearance at JMM to welcome the participants and introduce MAA President Robert L. Devaney, who presided over the Saturday afternoon MAA-AMS-SIAM Gerald and Judith Porter Public Lecture on “Movie Magic: The Mathematics behind Hollywood’s Visual Effects,” presented by Eitan Grinspun (Columbia University).
Equally notable but attracting a somewhat more specialized audience were the AMS Colloquium Lectures, given by Dusa McDuff (Barnard College, Columbia University), and the four lectures in the AMS Current Events Bulletin series, organized by David Eisenbud (University of California, Berkeley). The latter session included a timely update by Andrew Granville (University of Montreal) on significant progress toward proving the twin prime conjecture.
In 2013, JMM saw the U.S. launch of Mathematics of Planet Earth (MPE) 2013, a yearlong, worldwide program to publicize and promote the role of mathematics in developing a better understanding of dynamic processes affecting the planet. This year, at the mathematical institutes open house on the first evening of JMM, Brian Conrey (American Institute of Mathematics) announced plans for continuing this initiative into the future.
Bruce Torrence, Eve Torrence, and Colm Mulcahy, who together make up the MAM 2014 committee.
The year 2014 is the centennial of the birth of influential math popularizer Martin Gardner, so several exhibits, events, and talks at JMM highlighted Gardner’s many contributions to mathematics. Eve and Bruce Torrence (Randolph-Macon College) and Colm Mulcahy (Spelman College and American University) introduced “Mathematics, Magic, and Mystery” as the Gardner-inspired theme for Mathematics Awareness Month 2014 and unveiled the official poster for the celebration.
Actress Danica McKellar received the Joint Policy Board for Mathematics Communications Award for her efforts to inspire girls to pursue mathematics. Previous JPBM Communications Award winner Steven Strogatz (Cornell University) was awarded the MAA Euler Book Prize for The Joy of x: A Guided Tour of Math, from One to Infinity (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012).
There were also winners at the exhibition of mathematical art, an annual event that has grown over the years into a prime attraction at JMM. Prizes went to Robert Fathauer for his coral-like sculpture “Three-Fold Development” and to Conan Chadbourne for his circle-rich images “Enigmatic Plan of Inclusion I & II.”
Indeed, arts and crafts were well-represented at JMM, with lectures by Helaman and Claire Ferguson and by sarah-marie belcastro (Sarah Lawrence College), along with a special session on mathematics and mathematics education in fiber arts. To experience a few contemplative moments away from the relentless hustle and bustle of JMM activities, attendees could also drop by the Thursday evening knitting circle.
On another evening, Colin Adams (Williams College) and his fellow cast members offered a therapeutic dose of mathematical humor. Attracting a capacity crowd, this year’s edition of Mathematically Bent Theater featured four sketches, including one based on the article “Milestones in the Discovery of the Numbers,” published in November 2012 Math Horizons.
Truly, something for everyone.—Ivars Peterson
AMS JMM highlights
George Hart's Whimsy
News coverage of the JMM: