Friday, March 13, 2009

Camminando | Crossing the Williamsburg Bridge

Festival della Matematica Makes NYC Debut

When we acquiesce to the often-touted adage “It’s a Small World”, we are generally thinking of transportation or telecommunication. Okay, or Disney. But this week, we can add to that collection mathematics, because for two days, New York City became the center of the mathematical universe and established an exciting and meaningful mathematical tie with another world cultural center, Rome. The idea of organizing the momumental mathematics festival in the Big Apple was a brilliant one and presented a selection of lectures so delectable as to cause even the most serious mathematician to emit a wholly spontaneous, albeit predictably subdued, smile at the wonder of it all.

First, some history. In 2007, the Festival della Matematica debuted in Rome, under the direction of internationally esteemed mathematician Piergiorgio Odifreddi. Odifreddi was in fact the winner of the prestigious Galileo Prize of the Italian Mathematical Union in 1998, and has established himself, through his research, writing, teaching, and public relations savvy, as one of the great mathematics philosophers of modern time. And what do great mathematical thinkers do if they don’t want to become isolated thinking their deep mathematical thoughts? Why, they recruit other great mathematical thinkers and organize a meeting. Or a lecture. Or a celebration. Or how about a meeting which combines lectures with food and joviality that makes it all rise to the level of a celebration? And then, being global thinkers, if they could invite a few thousand guests from, let’s see, all over the world? Now there’s a stroke of genius worthy of a genius.

So on March 10 and 11, Odifreddi did exactly that. He coordinated the opening of the Festival della Matematica in New York City, in collaboration with the Italian Cultural Institute and Columbia University. The speakers were some of the gods of the math world. First, on the 10th, came Nobel Laureate Sheldon Glashow. Glashow, who won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1978 and hasn’t sat still for a moment before or since; his lecture was entitled “The unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics”. Next, Benoit Mandelbrot (yes, THE Benoit Mandelbrot) spoke on the highly relevant topic: "The (mis)behaviour of financial markets". The first day concluded with a presentation by Galileo…okay, not exactly Galileo, it almost could have been… his presence was definitely felt in the spellbinding "Imaginary interview with Galileo Galilei", a reading conceived and executed by the big persona of Odifreddi and Claudio Bartocci. Galileo would certainly have approved.

Wednesday, day two of the intellectual extravaganza, broke sparkling and clear with another Nobel Laureate, Daniel Kahneman (Economics) whose lecture entitled "Statistical thinking is hard, causal thinking is easy" sent audience thought-processes into early morning calisthenics.

Then, continuing the rich intellectual diet, yet another Nobel Laureate, this one of mathematical and Hollywood fame, John “Beautiful Mind” Nash, who discussed, in conjunction with Harold Kuhn, "The early days of game theory in Princeton ". Odifreddi coordinated Nash’s interview and the one that followed with Brian Greene, who made string theory a household term with his masterful book “The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory” and his subsequent Public Television series based on the book. His discussion, technical, but not inaccessibly so, focused on string theory, the nature of the universe, and other contemporary physics themes, and was a highlight for an audience who has been consistently illuminated by Greene for years.

In addition to the luxurious series of lectures, there were discussions, films, meetings, chats, and plentiful opportunity to interact with these great minds, since a part of what makes them so great is their willingness to disseminate what they have learned for those of us who, well let’s just say…struggle. In fact the whole essence of this essential event can be summed up in that one word: Sharing. Odifreddi is clearly not content with a mind that is overflowing. He is not happy sitting back and breathing a sigh of relief that he “got it.” He has made it his cause célèbre to make sure that we, at least we who want it, can get at least a good helping of it. Those who participated did so with such enthusiasm that participants feel compelled not to disappoint them, choosing rather to rise to the challenge of embracing mathematics.

Now, on to Rome. The second part, Parti Due, of the Festival della Matematica, will continue in Rome this week as perhaps the world’s major mathematical event of the year. The inclusion of New York, even as it fades into history, underscores the fact that mathematics has no boundaries. Mathematics promises us something intrinsic to our survival, and then follows through on its promises for those of us who take the time to listen and learn. Odifreddi’s brainchild, Festival della Matematica, gives us a venue to listen and learn, and a place where people of like mind can gather and reinforce the importance of mathematics not as its own endeavor, but as one that touches, enhances, strengthens every single endeavor that humans have attempted, attempt, or hope to undertake in the future. Mathematics, as amply demonstrated in this amazing program, informs the arts, philosophy, the social sciences and the hard sciences, and in its essence, everything else. Odifreddi seems intent on gently and not-so-gently moving the world out of a dust cloud of ignorance to a deep understanding of math that matures into love, the kind of love that comes with the appreciation of its elegance and indispensability.

Lauren Pacelli

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Festival della Matematica | New York and Rome

The Festival della Matematica started in 2007 in Rome and brought together the greatest thinkers and contributors to our knowledge of this century. Organized by the mathematician Piergiorgio Odifreddi, the Festival della Matematica has brought to a larger audience the beauty and importance in society of this discipline, which was defined by Galileo Galilei as the language of the universe: " La filosofia e' scritta in questo grandissimo libro che continuamente ci sta aperto innanzi agli occhi (io dico l'universo)...Egli e' scritto in lingua matematica"
This year's edition bridges New York (March 10 and 11) and Rome (March 19-22), as two of the greatest centers of contemporary culture so different and complementary at the same time. The New York edition included lectures by the 1979 Physics Nobel Laureate Sheldon Glasgow, Benoît Mandelbrot father of fractal geometry, the 1994 Nobel Prize in economics John Nash, the mathematician Thomas Banchoff who brought computer visualization to multidimensional universes and the physicist Brian Greene who brought to larger audience's attention string theory in the book "The Elegant Universe".
Piergiorgio Odifreddi and Thomas Banchoff

Benoit Mandelbrot

Sunday, March 8, 2009

X-Initiatives at the Dia Building in Chelsea

From last night opening,

Derek Jarman

Dan Flavin's Installation

Derek Jarman

Mika Tajima

March 8, International Women's Day

March 8, International Women's Day is celebrated in many countries worldwide, but in United States does not receive major attention in the media and social events. I want to wish to all

Happy Women's Day, in celebration of our diversity and recognization of our individual beauty,
creativity, strength, compassion and fairness!