Conference in Петербург

It is high time I told about my adventures in Korea at ICM (Hangul, stinky tofu, old and new friends) and about the very pleasant time I’ve been having in Saint Petersburg (maths, opera). But not yet!

Let me first announce the following conference, which will take place in St Petersburg at the end of November:


I hope it will turn out rather well. Please tell us if you want to attend – though, as we have limited funds, you would essentially have to fund your trip through your own grant (or your advisor’s, if you are a student, but we might be able to help with lodging in that case.) Things may be easier if you are in Russia. All are welcome!

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Math people moving around

In the June 2014 issue of the Newsletter of the European Mathematical Society,there is
an article (by Martin Andler, from Versailles) on the invited speakers at this year’s ICM, and, in particular, on geographical shifts in their career.

Besides offering some tables, the article briefly enumerates a few perspectives on the movement of mathematicians between countries, without really endeavouring to resolve the tensions between them. My aim here will be to give a summary of the situation and what I see as a second step in the analysis of these issues, in part with the hope that readers of this blog will discuss them further.

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    I am now able to make this public: the second AGRA school (Aritmética, Grupos, Análisis) will be happening in Cusco in August 2015.

    Here is the website.

    We are still putting together funding, but we have already managed to ensure quite a bit, and so we will be able to fund quite a few graduate students and young researchers (and perhaps some that are not quite so young). Our aim is to cover the expenses of admitted applicants in South America fully, and to cover the local expenses of people from elsewhere as well.


    I’m not calling it a “summer” or “winter” school, since climate at a moderate-high altitude (3400 meters over sea level) relatively close to the equatorial line simply does not follow that categorization. “Dry-season school” would have sounded a little odd, even though it would have been accurate.

    (Implications: sunny, cool at night and in the early morning, no mud, no rain, and unfortunately, no mushrooms either.)

    As I said: people of all genders are encouraged to apply – or, in Spanish, tod@s están invitad@s a postular, which is a rather nice way to put it, since it explicitly includes cyborgs.

    I hope the speakers will find they have been fairly depicted by their photograph:


    This depicts the use of the Monte Carlo method to approximate an area. Many thanks to Martín Chambi!

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Meta- and Galois

First, some extradiegetic comments. I did not post much last year. The main reason is obvious – for the first half of the year, I was very busy finishing the proof of the ternary Goldbach conjecture; then, during the summer, I had many speaking engagements – and I also spent a non-trivial amount of time writing a popular account of the proof for this blog. I spent the October-December rewriting the second, longer half of the proof – so that the proof is now in three papers, each of them a little over 70 pages in length. (I was also looking for new topics, doing some more travelling and lecturing, and retaking Russian and Classical Greek, among other things.)

At the same time, even though I had many reasons for staying away for blogging, it is a bit of a pity that I did not have time to blog precisely at a time when there started to be many more potential readers for it. Of course, some of them (you) are probably still around.

So far, I have written here mostly on mathematics, cinema and my travels. I would also like to touch a bit more frequently on a few serious subjects, not strictly mathematical, though sometimes related to mathematics and academia.

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From Avignon to Sevilla

I am now at the biennial Spanish number-theory conference, which, this time around, is taking place in Sevilla. It is my first time in the south of Spain. On the way here, I was in Avignon for the first day of the theatre festival.

The following are just brief impressions; they should not be taken for serious criticism. I found every spectacle I attended very worthwhile.

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The ternary Goldbach conjecture

So now everybody knows why I was posting more and more rarely. I recently posted a proof of the ternary Goldbach conjecture: it was split into two articles – a new one on major arcs, and a new and improved version of the article on minor arcs I wrote last year.

Of course, I’m expected to write a summary of the main ideas here – not just emphasizing the new points, as I do when giving a talk to an audience of specialists, but giving an overall picture of the proof and all its parts, old and new. Let me do that.

I know that the audience here is very mixed – if you don’t have the background to follow a paragraph, just keep on reading.

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Back to blogging: Akos, groups and Heaven’s Gate

I have had my hands full for quite a while. I intend to get back to blogging now — starting with a few short notes.

First, as some of you may know, I recently posted and submitted a survey paper on one of my main areas of research, viz., growth in groups:

In retrospect, it was a very good thing that I was required to write it (by the conditions on this). It has allowed me to summarize a great deal of what I have been doing in the last few years, as well as to explain other people’s work (to the best of my ability). Participants in the field come from many different areas – I hope I have managed to render ideas from different sources accessible in a fairly transparent way and in one single place.

As many of you also know, and as some others will be saddened to learn from the dedication in the survey paper above, one of my main coauthors, Ákos Seress, passed away a few weeks ago at the age of 54. I look back fondly to our many conversations on permutation groups and to our friendship. He will be missed.

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