In my long association with Queen Mary, one constant has been the variability of the Queen Mary Mathematics Society. As with many student societies, it takes an enthusiastic student or two to breathe life into it, and when these people leave it returns to somnolence.
Maybe it is different this time …
Last Tuesday I addressed the newly revitalised Queen Mary Mathsoc, at the invitation of Giulia Campolo. Perhaps she brings Italian flair to the job; in any case, she had produced a T-shirt with a logo devised by an Italian designer, and the result is impressive (if you can ignore the model).
I particularly like the choice of logo, which is described on the back as
The crumpled paper
A humble reminder of the frustration of all mathematicians, their effort and dedication in pursuit of a new solution, a breakthrough formula, or a lifetime chimera.
A dimension for human speculation and a place for abstraction, where both victory and failure are a possibility.
The second and third year students took my Mathematical Structures course. I don’t claim that I taught them the appreciation of mathematics which this logo and its description show; but I hope I contributed in some degree.
Anyway, I really enjoyed the evening. I had an audience of close to 100; this included first-year students as well as students I had taught, as well as others from computer science, physics, even genetics. I talked from 6 till 7, and afterwards we sat around and chatted, and it wasn’t until 9 that I noticed it was getting late and I should go.
I talked about Paradox. I wanted to get across my view, which is that rather than the famous paradoxes (infinitesimals, Russell’s paradox, Gödel’s Theorem, and the rest) being destructive of mathematics, they greatly enrich it by showing new aspects of our playpen, much as non-Euclidean geometry did. The three examples above gave us calculus, axiomatic set theory, and non-standard arithmetic and analysis.
Added 13 October: Here is a picture taken after the lecture by Martyna Sikora:
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