Here’s a round-up of mathematical news from the last couple of months.

Awards

The 2024 Abel Prize has been awarded to Michel Talagrand, “for his groundbreaking contributions to probability theory and functional analysis, with outstanding applications in mathematical physics and statistics.”

This year’s Turing Award has been given to Avi Wigderson, “for foundational contributions to the theory of computation, including reshaping our understanding of the role of randomness in computation, and for his decades of intellectual leadership in theoretical computer science.” Widgerson is a previous recipient of the Abel Prize.

And finally, there have unfortunately been two deaths in maths education. First, maths education stalwart and generally lovely person Sue de Pomerai has died. Sue worked at MEI, FMSP and AMSP, and made a huge contribution to maths promotion in the UK. Also Hugh Burkhardt, pioneering mathematics education researcher and former Director of the Shell Centre for Mathematical Education.

The Spectra Math (@LGBTMath) account has announced that the AMS (American Mathematical Society) has instituted a new policy, based on consultations with Spectra, concerning author name changes. The policy is intended to make its journals more inclusive, especially of trans and non-binary researchers. The policy seeks to provide a simple and efficient way for authors to update their name on published articles in a minimally intrusive way that respects the author’s privacy.

The Eindhoven University of Technology has advertised a post for a Full Professor in Applied Algebra and Geometry, which for the first six months of being advertised will only be open to female candidates. The post is part of the Irène Curie Fellowship program, which is dedicated to reaching at least 30% female researchers on TU/e’s permanent academic staff by 2024.

Igalia, contributors to digital maths writing standard MathML, have announce their intent to ship MathML support in Chromium going forward. They claim this announcement is a big step towards having MathML support enabled in Chromium (and hence Chrome) by default. (via Deyan Ginev on Twitter).

Despite previous big promises, the UK government has failed to deliver a promised £300m in funding for pure maths research, as revealed in a recent meeting of the Parliamentary Science and Technology Committee. It’s covered in this Times Higher Ed article (paywalled), or you can watch the proceedings on Parliamentlive.tv(via Protect Pure Maths on Twitter).

In a paper titled ‘The Next 350 Million Knots’, mathematician Benjamin A. Burton at The University of Queensland has enumerated all knots up to 19 crossings, meaning we now have a total of 352152252 known distinct non-trivial prime knots (only infinity to go!) (via Ian Agol).

Google’s Emma Haruka Iwao, architect of a previous large π digit calculation record announcement in 2019, is at it again: the 100 trillionth digit of π in base 10 has been revealed to be (spoiler alert) 0. According to a post on the Google Blog, the calculation took over 157 days and processed around 82,000 terabytes of data.

Events

The ICMS (International Centre for Mathematical Sciences) in Edinburgh has instituted a visiting fellow in music, with the inaugural recipient being Julien Lonchamp, an orchestral composer who has scored a number of short films.

He is interested in how sound and music work at the interface with other disciplines, including visual art and science. He aims to create novel immersive “sound-worlds” by combining a wide range of composition processes in order to communicate abstract or complex ideas.

Novel knot news now! You might already be aware that there are 85 ways to tie a tie. Well, cast that preconception aside because there are actually loads.

Yet another fun toy for you. Give a computer a set of tiles defined by what their edges look like, can you fit them together? That problem is undecidable, since you can encode Turing machines as sets of tiles, but it turns out it’s fun to watch a computer try.

Ghost Diagrams asks you for a set of tiles (or it’ll make some up if you didn’t bring one) and shows you its attempts to make them fit together. It’s very pretty, and quite mesmerising. Sometimes it looks even better when you turn on the “knotwork” option.

According to this post on phys.org, which reports on this paper in science journal Nature, there’s some beautiful physics which results from tying knots in light. It opens, “New research published today seeks to push the discovery that light can be tied in knots to the next level.” Between us, I wasn’t actually aware of the discovery that light can be tied in knots (and I’ve done a fair amount of knot theory, and observed a decent quantity of light) – but apparently it’s something scientists have been exploring for years.

A spinning optical soliton (wave pulse) can spontaneously create knotted and linked structures, as the soliton curves around in space, and while previously it’s been observed after engineering them to happen, now the knots are forming spontaneously, like ” those annoying knots that you always get in electrical cables.” (see: here). The paper suggests similar behaviour might be seen in other types of wavefronts, such as superfluids and trapped matter waves. For anyone who got lost around ‘soliton’, rest assured it involves the use of lasers. Obviously.