1250 mathematicians from all over the world filled the big conference hall in Rio de Janeiro on Monday the 6th of August to listen to Sir Michael Atiyah’s Abel Lecture, “The Future of Mathematical Physics: New ideas in old bottles”.
More people than ever before attended the Abel Lecture at ICM 2018 in Rio. From left to right: Sir Michael Atiyah, Kristian Ranestad and Jacob Palis.
After the lecture, the ICM organizers wrote on their website: “Michael Atiyah is a living math legend. At age 89, he shines bright with his keen mind and sharp sense of humor. Creating a magical atmosphere of wonder, he took hundreds of people on a journey through his mind, packed full of curiosity”.
Atiyah - who received the Abel Prize in 2004 together with Isadore Singer - was introduced by Jacob Palis, former president of IMU and also honorary president of the 2018 ICM in Rio. Palis was also a member of the Abel Committee when Atiyah and Singer received the Abel Prize. Kristian Ranestad from the Abel Board opened the event by giving the audience an introduction to the history of the Abel Prize. Before the lecture started a video presentation of the Abel Prize was shown to the audience.
Mathematics and Physics have a rich and intricate history, going back at least to Pythagoras and Archimedes. In the last fifty years it has expanded in new directions but the future is uncertain. I propose to peer into the future using old ideas of Archimedes.
We still have much to learn from the wisdom of the past, as Abel demonstrated. I will illustrate my thoughts by simple examples such as the magical number pi. What can it teach us today, two millennia after Archimedes discovered it?
The ICM News described Michael Atiyah’s lecture in this way: ” His sermon was weaved like a tapestry, going back and forth through the great minds of math and physics, intertwining history and discoveries with anecdotes and humor. Ultimately, he demonstrated the importance of looking back to some of math’s oldest ideas with a fresh gaze.
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