Archive for Théorème Vivant

Théorème vivant

Posted in Books, University life with tags , , , , , , , on November 7, 2012 by xi'an

When I ordered this book, Théorème Vivant (Alive Theorem), by Cédric Villani, I had misgivings about it being yet another illustration of the, pardon my French!, universal “pipolisation” process that turns values upside down and sets mundane aspects of major contemporary figures above their true achievements like, say, winning a Fields medal! However, as soon as I started reading Théorème Vivant, I realised it was a fascinating delve into the way mathematicians operate and how they build theorems. Of course, as an “insider”, I can find many entry points to relate to, some quite mundane and unrelated like entering the common room of a conference centre in the middle of the night to “steal” some life-saving tea bags or an aversion to taxi rides, not mentioning an addiction to French cheeses… And I have the advantage of being able to read the math formulas given in the book (even though this is not at all my area of expertise and I find the wording of the theorems and proofs rather unusual at times). But I think Théorème Vivant can be read by non-mathematicians as well, provided they take those formulas and paper extracts as pictures, just like the drawings of mathematicians interspeded throughout the book and do not get annoyed at not understanding the meaning of them (I do not get the deepest levels either!). Nothing to be afraid of: Théorème Vivant is another impressive illustration of the ability of Cédric Villani to explain mathematics to the general public and to surf upon his popularity with the medias. (The book is currently available in French only, but should soon be translated into English. Possibly polishing the least politically correct statements…) Continue reading

ABC in Le Monde?

Posted in Books, pictures, Statistics, Travel, University life, Wines with tags , , , , , , , , , , on October 29, 2012 by xi'an

In the plane to Chicago, while being stuck on the tarmac at Roissy airport for an hour, I went through my newspapers, only to have the pleasant surprise find in the science leaflet of Le Monde that my co-author Arnaud Estoup, senior researcher at INRA in Montpellier (CBGP), was mentioned in a full page article for his work on the multi-colored Asian lady beetle (Harmonia axyridis, HA), establishing “that the recent burst of worldwide invasions of HA followed a bridgehead scenario, in which an invasive population in eastern North America acted as the source of the colonists that invaded the European, South American and African continents, with some admixture with a biocontrol strain in Europe“. Obviously, Le Monde does not goes as far as mentioning ABC, which was used in our paper to compare scenarios, i.e. to make ABC model choice! (I may also add that the invasion of those Asian bettles in our neighbourhood is a real nuisance and, each Fall, I keep checking for any sign of black beetles inside the house before disaster strikes…)

Despite an inauspicious start (RER B train finishing its trip in Paris and forcing me to board in a hurry a taxi to the airport, abyssal mess at Roissy airport [now, that's a surprise!], departure delayed by 90 minutes), I got some work done during the nine hour flight, including reading and reviewing a PhD thesis, and I even managed to get my connection from Chicago to Des Moines despite a tight 45 minutes transfer time! At a personal level, this reminded me of the very first time I flew to the US, in August 1987, as it also was through O’Hare and I also had to rush to get my connection to Lafayette, Indiana. Even more anecdotally, this AF0664 flight from Paris to Chicago happened to be the very last one, as the route is discontinued by Air France. The second flight to Des Moines was on a small propeller plane and, despite sitting next to an obnoxious drunk woman who wanted me to know everything about her [dull, so very dull] life, quite pleasant: I finished reading in the Midwest sun the highly entertaining thriller by Cédric Villani, Le Théorème vivant. (Obviously soon to be reviewed on The ‘Og!)

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