Sunday, June 07, 2009

not that kind of summer school.

lately i haven't had too many opinions or observations. when not attending lectures, i've been puzzled by some of my own research inquiries or encountered dilemmas in writing.

since i became interested in mathematics, i've attended three summer schools [0]. this is the fourth.

the term 'summer school' is almost a misnomer. a better name would be a 'lecture series' or a 'seminar.' when i say 'summer school,' it resembles too closely undergraduate coursework of a dim nature; there are even lacklustre films about this latter kind of thing.

what comes next is probably redundant, for those of you who've attended these kinds of things. maybe i'll post something more interesting later.

by the second day of the summer school, there were bound copies of lecture notes for the courses [1]. shortly after their appearance, proofs during the courses became sketches of proofs.

that sounds condemning at first, but i don't mean it that way.

these courses are not in your standard mathematics curriculum. the invited lecturers are presenting advanced topics in QC, PDE, and GMT.

the audience does not consist of wide-eyed, first-year students, either. we all know what a proof is, how hard rigorous details can be. we're not here to be instructed. instead, we're here for the ideas. if the ideas are good -- and certainly they are -- and if we are sufficiently interested, then we can roll up our sleeves and work out the details on our own.

intuition and insights are rare commodities in this business. that's why we're here.

that's the amazing thing about a summer school. like a conference, many researchers are gathered in a single place and share new insights, either by giving talks or discussing ideas between talks. the collected potential, within a single building, is staggering.

the difference is the pace: at a summer school, one isn't bombarded by 20- or 30-minute research summaries, glutted into a short span of days. over a series of lectures at a summer school, one sees several ideas as developed and discussed by an expert, who willingly shares a wealth of intuition from his/her own months of careful work and thought.

so yes, it's like a seminar in the sense of pace, but like a conference in its setting.

put that way, i'm probably not taking this opportunity to the fullest extent that i can. even after all these years, i still find it difficult to meet mathematicians and share my ideas.

[0] maybe 4, going on 5. in order, they are --

2003: park city, ut,
2004: pittsburgh, pa & jyväskylä, finland,
2006*: ann arbor, mi,
2009: barcelona, spain.

[1] well, 3 of 4. for the remaining course, the notes are printed separately and will probably go online.


Café P11 said...


janus said...

no thanks. i'm trying to cut down.