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Occasionally, there has been a suggestion to start a meta question to collect information that might be of interest to the MO community. This is an attempt to start such a thread.

Is there any news that you think would be of wide interest to the MO community? Please exercise your discretion in any answers, and your judgement on the appropriateness or significance of any event.

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    $\begingroup$ As of now, four of five answers report someone's death -- is this almost the only type of "News of potential interest to the MO community"? I do not doubt that these reports are of interest, in particular the one of today -- but would it perhaps make sense to adjust the question accordingly, as for several months hardly any other news turned up here? $\endgroup$
    – Stefan Kohl Mod
    Jul 15 '17 at 23:19
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    $\begingroup$ @StefanKohl: By all means add news that is more positive, if appropriate. I left the question deliberately open ended. $\endgroup$
    – Lucia
    Jul 16 '17 at 4:42
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    $\begingroup$ I think reporting any important enough result or new development in mathematics would be fine as well, and at least equally interesting as news about who has died or who has got this-or-that award. $\endgroup$
    – Stefan Kohl Mod
    Jul 17 '17 at 19:46
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    $\begingroup$ It seems that this is mainly an "Obituaries column", rather than general news. I sure hope there will be some good news posted here sometime soon... $\endgroup$
    – Asaf Karagila Mod
    Feb 7 '18 at 12:57
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    $\begingroup$ @David: Having known about this for a few months now, this is not a surprise for me. I also complained that this is not exactly "MO News". I didn't see anyone congratulate me for winning the Newton International Fellowship (nor I expected that to happen, nor I wish it to have happened). I didn't see anyone congratulate any other user on their fancy grants or new positions. Yes, this is a happy news, as opposed to the whole dead people thing. But it's not something that I find as relevant news to the site. As much as I am happy that Joel will be closer now, which I am, let me assure you that. $\endgroup$
    – Asaf Karagila Mod
    May 20 '18 at 23:17
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    $\begingroup$ @Asaf of course you would know :-) but it makes a change from "so-and-so died :-(..." $\endgroup$ May 22 '18 at 1:13
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    $\begingroup$ @AsafKaragila: When I posted this question, I also flagged it myself so that the moderators can assess its suitability and asked them to delete it if they thought fit. By and large, this question and the answers have been uncontroversial -- the answers have been appropriate and respectful, and I see very few downvotes. I'm sure you or others may find something troubling about this -- I don't see it myself. In any case, surely there is room for differing viewpoints on this. $\endgroup$
    – Lucia
    Sep 24 '18 at 16:14
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    $\begingroup$ @Asaf Ah. I had deleted my comment after seeing the comments to the first answer. But on second thought I do stand by it: there is something about having voting arrows next to a series of obituaries that makes me deeply uncomfortable. Votes on a single answer are OK, but when there's several and the default sorting is by votes, it's much more complicated. I see the value in a noticeboard with those announcements, but this format has some awful features. $\endgroup$ Sep 24 '18 at 16:16
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    $\begingroup$ @Lucia: I don't think it should be closed or deleted or anything. And I agree that it has some relevance here. Nevertheless, it still feels a bit odd, in part for the reasons that Emilio mentions. $\endgroup$
    – Asaf Karagila Mod
    Sep 24 '18 at 17:35
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    $\begingroup$ @Lucia (and is there a way to ping the mods?) is there a way to set the default answer sorting for this thread to newest first? $\endgroup$
    – none
    Apr 12 '20 at 9:41
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    $\begingroup$ @AsafKaragila what does CW mean on meta? $\endgroup$ Jul 8 '20 at 1:27
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    $\begingroup$ @FrançoisG.Dorais: More users can edit answers with relevant information. $\endgroup$
    – Asaf Karagila Mod
    Jul 8 '20 at 7:24
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    $\begingroup$ @StefanKohl: I removed your edit, since I don't see its relevance to the question. I get the sense that you don't like the question or the answers, and that is certainly your prerogative. But it doesn't seem correct to me that the question should be edited with a comment aimed at discouraging answers. $\endgroup$
    – Lucia
    Aug 5 '20 at 15:31
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    $\begingroup$ @Lucia: I didn't mean to discourage answers in any way -- just the contrary. Actually I find the question as such good (I upvoted it already a long time ago). My edit was merely to give a quick overview of what answers are currently there, and to encourage more non-obituary answers. If the edit read like I wanted to discourage answers, then I am sorry, and in this case it was indeed good to revert it. $\endgroup$
    – Stefan Kohl Mod
    Aug 5 '20 at 21:09
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    $\begingroup$ @StefanKohl: Thanks for your response! I'd prefer the question as it is. Of course as it is CommunityWiki, everyone has an equal right to edit it, and I don't insist upon my view. $\endgroup$
    – Lucia
    Aug 5 '20 at 21:20

31 Answers 31

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Igor Shafarevich died on February 19, 2017 in Moscow at the age of 93.

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    $\begingroup$ Can one upvote news like this -- or is there a risk that the meaning of an upvote here is misunderstood? $\endgroup$
    – Stefan Kohl Mod
    Feb 20 '17 at 21:04
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    $\begingroup$ I think one should understand upvotes to news of this type simply as a mark of respect. At least that's how I would take it. $\endgroup$
    – Lucia
    Feb 20 '17 at 21:16
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    $\begingroup$ Perhaps if meta had a link called "thanks" instead of just "upvote" Stefan's question wouldn't arise. Though like Lucia, my upvote here is simply also as a mark of respect; additionally, I also view my upvote here as a note of thanks to Lucia for bringing this news to the attention of the MO community. $\endgroup$
    – Suvrit
    Feb 22 '17 at 3:51
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    $\begingroup$ My upvote here is a show of respect to IG. $\endgroup$ Feb 26 '17 at 19:18
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Maryam Mirzakhani has died of breast cancer. A professor at Stanford University, she was the first female (and first Iranian) recipient of the Fields Medal. She was only 40 years old.

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John Conway passed away on April 11, 2020, at age 82: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Horton_Conway

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Sadly we just lost another Fields medallist, Vladimir Voevodsky died suddenly.

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As nobody mentioned this here so far -- since last month (January 2021), zbMATH is completely open access.

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Spectacular Olympic victory in cycling by EPFL postdoc Anna Kiesenhofer

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    $\begingroup$ I have also mentioned this at the "non-math achievements by mathematicians" thread. $\endgroup$ Jul 25 at 13:20
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    $\begingroup$ deeply impressive; here is a (translated) commentary by our national news paper: The Dutch women grossly underestimated Anna Kiesenhofer from the hamlet of Kreusztetten. She should never have been given eleven minutes in the game of her life. Asked for tips for young riders, the brand new champion inadvertently sent a message to the Dutch team: "Don't trust anyone blindly." That's how she had come here. $\endgroup$ Jul 25 at 13:55
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    $\begingroup$ Wow!! Thanks for that answer! $\endgroup$
    – Lucia
    Jul 25 at 14:02
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Atiyah passed away on Friday (11th Jan), confirmed by Oxford Maths dept, the Royal Society and an obit in the NYT.

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    $\begingroup$ Thanks for posting. That's sad to hear. $\endgroup$
    – Lucia
    Jan 12 '19 at 5:03
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Not an obituary, but not good news either.

There seem to be an effort to eliminate pure mathematics from the University of Leicester. Anyone who is interested in signing a petition to try and raise awareness of how severe of a mistake this may be can do so here:

https://www.ipetitions.com/petition/mathematics-is-not-redundant

The ironic part is that the proposed change is under a restructuring effort named "Shaping for Excellence". Please help to spread the word.

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    $\begingroup$ I'm not sure why the downvote. This isn't the first time these sort of petitions are posted on MO. I just didn't feel that it merits a separate thread. $\endgroup$
    – Asaf Karagila Mod
    Jan 30 at 17:45
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    $\begingroup$ Seems a good point to raise here. Thanks for adding this. $\endgroup$
    – Lucia
    Jan 30 at 18:05
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    $\begingroup$ This is doubly dispiriting/appalling given that the university had tried something similar back in 2016... $\endgroup$
    – Yemon Choi
    Jan 30 at 20:32
  • $\begingroup$ @Yemon: That is terrible. $\endgroup$
    – Asaf Karagila Mod
    Jan 30 at 20:32
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The 2018 Fields medal winners are Caucher Birkar, Alessio Figalli, Peter Scholze, and Akshay Venkatesh. Brief citations and longer descriptions of their work are available on the IMU website.

Peter Scholze has explained some of the key ideas in his research on MO, most notably in this introductory post.

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    $\begingroup$ Constantinas Daskalakis (sp?) Is the Nevanlinna prize winner, and David Donoho for Gauss prize. When I get to see the names for Leelavati and Chern winners, I will post them. Gerhard "Sincere Congratulations To Them All" Paseman, 2018.08.01. $\endgroup$ Aug 1 '18 at 16:26
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    $\begingroup$ Masaki Kashiwara for Chern prize. Gerhard "Finally Seeing The Laudatio Lectures" Paseman, 2018.08.01. $\endgroup$ Aug 1 '18 at 20:00
  • $\begingroup$ Ali Nesin for Leelavati. Gerhard "That's The List For Today" Paseman, 2018.08.01. $\endgroup$ Aug 1 '18 at 20:21
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Alan Turing will appear on the Bank of England's new ${\large\unicode{xA3}} 50$ note -- with a photo, a quote, and some lines from his 1936 paper in the Proceedings of the London Mathematical Society: "On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem." enter image description here

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Marina Ratner, Professor at Berkeley, died on July 7, 2017.

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Alan Baker (1939-2018) died on 4 February 2018. Baker received the Fields medal in 1970 for his work in transcendental number theory.

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  • $\begingroup$ A great pity :'( $\endgroup$
    – Jose Brox
    Feb 7 '18 at 22:11
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Congratulations to J.D. Hamkins

Please join us in wishing J.D. Hamkins the best of luck as Professor of Logic in the Faculty of Philosophy at Oxford University, and Sir Peter Strawson Fellow in Philosophy, University College, Oxford. Hopefully he'll continue his contributions to this site.

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    $\begingroup$ Thank you very much; you are so kind to take notice. Yes, indeed, I expect I shall be carrying on as usual with MathOverflow while in Oxford. Or perhaps I should say, "whilst"? $\endgroup$ May 21 '18 at 16:23
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    $\begingroup$ Here's a possible answer. $\endgroup$ May 23 '18 at 6:45
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Jim Humphreys has passed away. This was confirmed by Paul Gunnells https://people.math.umass.edu/~gunnells/ and is implied by https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_E._Humphreys

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Vaughan Jones has passed away at the age of 67. I think others on MO may be better placed than me [YC] to comment on the depth and impact of his work on subfactors and his introduction of what became known as the Jones polynomial in knot theory.

Link to article in New Zealand Herald

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    $\begingroup$ I was sorry to hear that. The Wikipedia page does mention this, but the exact date seems unclear as you say. $\endgroup$
    – Lucia
    Sep 8 '20 at 15:30
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Maria Yakerson has asked me to post the following announcement, since it could be interesting for the MO community

Dear all,

I would like to announce the YouTube channel "Math-life balance", where I am posting my online-interviews with mathematicians:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCYRR0SgbYH59htIHkwTbqMw

In these non-professional interviews I ask our colleagues about their personal experience in math, about different aspects of mathematician's job, about their struggles and lifehacks. I imagine, it could be useful for our community, especially for young mathematicians. While we discuss serious matters, there's a lot of laughter and storytelling involved, so I hope that would be a new source of joy during lockdown time!

I plan to post videos on Fridays at 6 pm CET. The first interview, with Inna Zakharevich (Cornell University), is already available today. The second interview, with Hélène Esnault (Freie Universität Berlin), will be available next Friday. The updates to the schedule of interviews will appear here:

https://www.muramatik.com/math-life-balance/

A side-note: I've turned off comments on the channel in order to avoid inappropriate comments from spammers, often appearing on Youtube (and I can't moderate a discussion elsewhere myself, sorry!). In case you have comments, critics or encouragement for me, feel free to send me an email!

Please spread the word! I would especially appreciate if you share the link with your students.

All the best, Mura Yakerson

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    $\begingroup$ Some good news for once! Thanks for putting this here. $\endgroup$ Jan 23 at 3:37
  • $\begingroup$ Just came to this thread to post this. I've really enjoyed these interviews and learned a lot. $\endgroup$ Mar 6 at 23:30
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Jacques Neveu died on May 15, 2016 at the age of 83. A day in homage to the famous french probabilist will be held on may 23, 2017 at IHP. Registration is free yet mandatory.

https://journee-neveu.sciencesconf.org/

journee Jacques Neveu

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The following was posted to the Algebraic Topology mailing list by Eric Friedlander:

Andrei Suslin passed away today, July 10 2018 at the age of 67. Andrei has been one of the leading algebraists of the past 50 years, establishing many of the basic theorems in algebraic K-theory, instrumental in the development of motivic theories in algebraic geometry, and a powerful influence in the study of the cohomology of finite group schemes. His mathematics has always been elegant; his attitude has always been one of generosity.

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Ron Graham passed away.

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Kenneth Kunen passed away yesterday, August 14.

Kunen is best known for his work in set theory and set-theoretic topology.

https://www.math.wisc.edu/node/829

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  • $\begingroup$ Oh no! How did that happen? $\endgroup$
    – Asaf Karagila Mod
    Aug 16 '20 at 0:09
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    $\begingroup$ Do you have any sources that Wikipedia could cite? I started a discussion on the talk page $\endgroup$ Aug 16 '20 at 1:45
  • $\begingroup$ Hi @Asaf. I don't have any details. I learned of it through one of his former students. Apparently he had heart problems. $\endgroup$ Aug 16 '20 at 2:57
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    $\begingroup$ @David Hi David, I added a link. $\endgroup$ Aug 17 '20 at 17:39
  • $\begingroup$ @Andrés thanks. I see there was some activity on WP back and forth, so it's good to be able to pin things down. $\endgroup$ Aug 17 '20 at 21:31
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Raymond Hoobler died on April 29 (of covid-19). See the obituary.

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Èrnest Borisovich Vinberg passed away (“from coronavirus pneumonia”) on May 12, 2020.

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Robin Chapman was a valued contributor to MathOverflow in its early years. He passed away, unexpectedly, on 18 October 2020. An obituary can be found at the website of the Math Department at the University of Exeter.

Thanks to Gerry Myerson for letting us know.

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  • $\begingroup$ He solved an amazing number of the problems posed in the American Mathematical Monthly---quite a talent. $\endgroup$ Dec 24 '20 at 23:23
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On November 10, 2020, we lost Harold Mortimer Edwards, one of the few modern mathematicians to understand pre-modern (Galois, Kronecker, Dedekind) algebra and to attempt the demanding task of exposing it for modern readers. Obituary.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for letting us know. I really liked his books on the zeta function, and on Fermat (pre-Wiles). $\endgroup$
    – Lucia
    Dec 2 '20 at 3:36
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"Statement on scientific publications by three national Academies (Academie des sciences, Leopoldina, and Royal Society)"

https://www.leopoldina.org/uploads/tx_leopublication/2016_Joint_Statement_on_scientific_publications.pdf

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  • $\begingroup$ This is interesting, but at least for math journals the recommendations seem mostly superfluous. I would guess that most good journals follow similar practices, and the predatory ones are hardly likely to care. $\endgroup$
    – Lucia
    May 28 '18 at 3:10
  • $\begingroup$ @Lucia I'm not saying that the statement is ideal or even that I agree with everything written there (though it is a step in the right direction, IMHO). I'm just saying that it is something I'd like to attract people's attention to. $\endgroup$
    – fedja
    May 28 '18 at 16:03
  • $\begingroup$ No complaints from me! $\endgroup$
    – Lucia
    May 28 '18 at 16:06
  • $\begingroup$ @Lucia: Why do you think that the recommendations seem superfluous for math journals? -- I don't think they are -- also in mathematics there appear to be more and more journals where the peer-review doesn't work as it should (arbitrary-chosen example), and also in mathematics it happens at times that referee's reports lack professionality (personal attacks on authors and the like). -- What I find objectionable in the statement is though the idea of per-article payments to 'fund' open-access -- it simply doesn't seem realistic to me to make (continued) -- $\endgroup$
    – Stefan Kohl Mod
    Jun 3 '18 at 16:27
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    $\begingroup$ (cont.): such payments independent from the decision to accept an article. Also, who would pay possible article processing charges for authors based in low-income countries, or for authors who are not affilitated with an institution? -- In my opinion, it would be best to make scientific publications exempt from copyright altogether (just as any type of documents where the copyright protection serves the only purpose to feed a publisher, and the benefit for the author is typically equal to zero). $\endgroup$
    – Stefan Kohl Mod
    Jun 3 '18 at 16:34
  • $\begingroup$ @StefanKohl: The example you linked seems to be from a nonsense journal. As I mentioned in my remark, good journals already follow practices similar to the ones mentioned, and the corrupt (strictly for profit) ones are unlikely to change in any meaningful way. APC's for open access is a complicated issue, but in the journals that I am aware of (or have been involved with), exceptions are always made to anyone who cannot afford them. Also, some countries seem to have negotiated good deals with publishers regarding open access, which may be a different way forward. $\endgroup$
    – Lucia
    Jun 3 '18 at 17:11
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    $\begingroup$ @Stefan Kohl "Also, who would pay possible article processing charges for authors based in low-income countries, or for authors who are not affilitated with an institution?" My stance is much stronger: by sharing my knowledge by publishing I do a service to the community, so if somebody should be paid here at all, it is I. I can forfeit the reward, but that's where I draw the line. Arguments like the above sound to me like if the journal publishers asked that authors kiss their asses and the objection is that some people have back/knee problems, so it is hard for them to bend that low or kneel $\endgroup$
    – fedja
    Jun 3 '18 at 17:28
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    $\begingroup$ Worth a plug: freejournals.org fairopenaccess.org $\endgroup$ Jul 15 '18 at 22:38
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Sergey Natanzon (Сергей Миронович Натанзон), 1948-2020, passed away on December 7, 2020, in Moscow, from covid-19 complications. His main research was in Fuchsian groups and Riemann surfaces. More on his work is here.

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If I am reading this chart from the AAAS correctly, on "Mathematical Sciences in the FY 2016 Budget," the funding for math in the U.S. went down by \$3 million dollars (rounded, without adjusting for inflation) from 2015 to 2016. I would be interested to learn the trend in other countries.

      Math Budget

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    $\begingroup$ I don't see where you got that figure from, even given your image. $\endgroup$ Mar 13 '17 at 4:01
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    $\begingroup$ I think a more important question here is what the net value of the funding actually is -- i.e. after deducting reasonable wages for the time people spend on writing applications for these funds (both successful and unsuccessful ones) -- and how that changes over the years. $\endgroup$
    – Stefan Kohl Mod
    Mar 18 '17 at 10:26
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    $\begingroup$ @DavidRoberts: $(235+122+97)-(232+129+96) = -3$. LIkely more accurate than using the rounded numbers in each small category. $\endgroup$ Mar 18 '17 at 11:44
  • $\begingroup$ @StefanKohl: I take your point, but the estimates you suggest using would be very difficult to calculate---time spent on writing; unsuccessful grants. $\endgroup$ Mar 18 '17 at 12:05
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    $\begingroup$ Is there any kind of new figures for more recent times? (I hesitate to say "this year") $\endgroup$ May 21 '18 at 4:23
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    $\begingroup$ It seems the situation is quite unclear. Here is one article addressing the US 2018 budget: AMS link. $\endgroup$ May 25 '18 at 1:05
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I am reliably informed that C.S. Seshadri has passed away in Chennai (July 17, 2020).

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I might be behind the times here, but there is a Quanta article giving some history behind Freedman's classification of topological 4-manifolds and reporting on the new book The Disc Embedding Theorem by Behrens–Kalmar–Kim–Teichner–Ray which sets out a complete proof. It makes interesting reading for those of us who are concerned about the evanescent nature of mathematical knowledge if left unattended.

Passing reference is made to the 2012 MO post Independent evidence for the classification of topological 4-manifolds?

(It is possible that this answer duplicates some other reference to the 5-person book, in which case I am happy for this to be deleted and merged into that other answer.)

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    $\begingroup$ Such a well-written article on a difficult-to-explain topic! $\endgroup$ yesterday
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There is now a plaque in Paris (between the Luxembourg Gardens and the Pantheon) to commemorate the first meeting of Bourbaki (10 December 1934) at their local Burger King!

enter image description here

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  • $\begingroup$ Just to be clear, I don't think Bourbaki met at a Burger King, I think a Burger King was opened, many years later, next to the site of the Bourbaki meeting. $\endgroup$ yesterday
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @GerryMyerson: I wondered if anyone would really think that, but I'm surprised that you should raise it! I think the Burger King occupies abstractly the same space that Bourbaki concretized. (See the plaque; and Bourbaki concretizing something is a nice joke in itself.) $\endgroup$
    – Lucia
    yesterday
  • $\begingroup$ I never shrink from stating the obvious, Lucia. $\endgroup$ yesterday
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Fun false fact: the name Bourbaki comes from a mispronunciation of Burger King, the place where they first met in 1934. $\endgroup$ 21 hours ago
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @FedericoPoloni: I was sent this with a fantastic caption to the photo: BourbaKing! $\endgroup$
    – Lucia
    20 hours ago

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