After the Mass Interaction debate on the nature of infinity, I talked to quite a few people. Among them were Ania and George, whose ears pricked up when I waid I was going to Lisbon soon. They said they were also going to Lisbon, and hoped that we could meet up.
The chance of people randomly meeting up in Lisbon, when two are downtown and the other commuting between Benfica and the University, are pretty remote. But Ania and George found my email and contacted me, suggesting a meeting. So on Thursday, after lecturing on group theory, I went over to the Cidade Universitaria metro to meet them. Right on time, there they were.
After taking them to the mathematics department to introduce them to João (who is my boss at the moment, I suppose, having just taken over as head of department the week before I arrived), we went and had a coffee and a chat, ranging widely from the Polish cryptographers who first broke the Enigma cipher (from Ania’s home town of Poznan) to the architectural style encouraged by the Portuguese dictator Antonio Salazar (much in evidence around the university). Then we went and sat on a seat outside, and Ania interviewed me for her blog. (I will post a link when the interview goes up.)
At the end they were polite enough to say that the conversation had been a highlight of their visit to Lisbon. I feel enormously privileged to be able, not only to do mathematics in such a beautiful city, but to take a break from the mathematics and talk to lively and interesting people.
PS It was George and Ania who came up with the lovely title. In some ways even better than that of the Horizon program “To infinity and beyond”.