My avatar across the web: a photo of my feet in grey-white socks and brown sandals.

Ben Babcock

I read, write, code, and knit.

CUMC 2010, Day 1

It is Wednesday, July 7. The CUMC talks began today.

I went to four talks today. Rather than summarize them all--I enjoyed them all--I'll mention some highlights. The first talk of the afternoon was both my least favourite and most favourite talk. Entitled "The Ontology of Mathematics: Do Numbers Exist?," the presenter read from dense slides, which did not make for the most riveting experience. There was some lively discussion among the audience, however, and I enjoy talks like that.

Comparing CUMC to the Combinatorics & Optimization workshop that preceded it, I prefer the student talks of the former. The topics are so varied--there is so much choice within each time slot, that it is difficult to decide which talks to attend. The atmosphere is less intimidating, because it's undergraduates talking to undergraduates. I almost regret not giving a talk myself--almost, for it would involve public speaking, and long gone are the days when classes made that mandatory.

There were two keynote speakers, one at lunch and one at the end of the day. First, Frank Morgan, from Williams College, gave a talk on densities and the Poincaré conjecture. As I have never studied differential geometry, most of the mathematics went over my head. The audience in general got into it, however, asked great questions, and we all tried answering the questions Morgan asked of us. In the end, I learned from the talk, which is all one can ask, right? The second talk was easier for me to understand, because it involved matrices and metric spaces. I love metric spaces! Carsten Thomassen, visiting from the Technical University of Denmark, was the speaker; he also gave two talks at the Combinatorics & Optimization workshop.

After the last keynote, Aaron, Rachael, and I walked down to the campus plaza, which has a cornucopia of restaurants. We elected to share a pizza, placed an order, and then took it back to the air-conditioned environment of another building. The Waterloo campus is beautiful, but the heat makes any sort of lengthy walk unattractive. Waterloo campus is also big--compared to Lakehead's, at least--so every walk is lengthy.

The pizza proved a good choice, as it was tasty and filling. We walked back to the residence where Aaron and Rachael stayed, and then Rachael and I listened to Aaron's talk, which he is presenting tomorrow afternoon (it concerns the classical Cantor set). Tomorrow I plan to attend talks on set theory, computability theory, universal algebra, and perhaps one on range-sum queries.

I've uploaded some photos from my trip so far. They are all accessible in this Flickr set, and new ones will be added there as well.