Quarter Life Crisis

The world according to Sven-S. Porst

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Eventually I reached the real destination of my trip: the workshop on symplectic geometry and mathematical physics at the MSRI in Berkeley.

The institute is most beautifully situated on a hill east of the university campus with direct – and I would believe unobstructible – view across the bay onto Golden Gate bridge. Weather permitting, that is. Actually it seemed possible to see the bridge about half of the time, with fog or clouds being in the way for the other half. They are also selling a cool postcard at the institute, that uses a few features you can see from up there (the Golden Gate bridge and an island further out in the sea) to compute the diameter of the earth. That postcard is appropriately titled Mathematically, the view is global.

The workshop was very interesting with 23 people giving talks on almost as many different topics. Even better, many of the people talking were people whose names I knew from papers or books, so this was a chance to see or even meet them – or just meet them again, for a few.

The talks varied in subject area from physics stuff I couldn't make a lot of sense of to things I had actually studied before. Most of the talks were quite advanced, making it hard to understand some of them for me – as grad students definitely were low end of the participant list.

Let's say I am still a bit overwhelmed and will have to do some serious sorting through my notes to see which things will be worth considering further.

Many things people told us about were recent or very recent – with the times given being 'recently', 'in the past two weeks' or even 'since Tuesday'. So I got to see some really cutting edge stuff there. It's also cool that people actually talk about their current research without appearing to be overly protective about it as the whole 'publish or perish' motto would suggest. Perhaps the internet with its possibilies to put up preprints helps here, as it makes it easy to upload things and settle questions of originality, should they arise.

And then there were all those mathematicians...

March 26, 2004, 17:24

Tagged as maths, uni, workshop.

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