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January 26, 2013

This Week’s Finds at 20

Posted by Tom Leinster

A quiet conversation has been going on about this at the Azimuth thread, but it deserves its own entry. This Week’s Finds recently turned 20.

Jordan Ellenberg had the excellent idea of writing a tribute piece, This Week’s Finds in Number Theory, and encouraged others to do something similar. Valeria de Paiva took up the challenge, with This Week’s Finds in Categorical Logic. And Joachim Kock has just followed up with a wonderful appreciation of This Week’s Finds: String Diagrams, the Number 5, and the Moons of Jupiter.

Update:  Now hilbertthm90 has written This Week’s Finds in Arithmetic Geometry.

Posted at January 26, 2013 4:03 PM UTC

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Re: This Week’s Finds at 20

Happy birthday, TWF! The look of Joachim’s ASCII tribute brought back memories.

Maybe if I start working on one right away I can have a tribute piece ready for TWF’s 25th birthday.

Posted by: Mark Meckes on January 26, 2013 4:59 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: This Week’s Finds at 20

Happy Anniversary! As you continue to receive many well-deserved accolades from your professional colleagues for your unique and significant contributions, let me add a few words from an amateur in the peanut gallery. I didn’t discover the amazing TWF till after I retired. It opened new doors that I hadn’t known even existed. It launched me on a journey of wonder and adventure and guides my mathematical studies that grow more exciting every day. It has changed my life! My profound thanks to you John!

Posted by: Charlie Clingen on January 27, 2013 7:29 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: This Week’s Finds at 20

Happy anniversary TWF! I was first introduced to TWF by my friend Ygor Geurts when I began my Masters degree (Ygor was a genius on the internet, sensing its perturbations like a spider lurking at the center of its web). The first time I looked at it, I think it was a post having to do with string diagrams in linear algebra. I thought it was horrible! But very soon after that I fell in love with it. It certainly inspired me and changed my life, thanks John. Now of course my PhD student is going through them, starting with the quantum gravity seminar!

Posted by: Bruce Bartlett on January 29, 2013 6:45 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: This Week’s Finds at 20

I missed the first 3 years of TWF, tuning in ‘only’ 17 years ago. What was so important for an outsider was that John managed to give the sense that it was possible to grasp the outlines of ideas from cutting-edge research. The fundamental belief that things had to be simpler than they often appeared, tied in with the unveiling of an intriguing research program, HDA, which promised to revolutionise mathematics and physics, was captivating for someone trying to push the philosophy of maths to engage with mathematicians.

Unfortunately, such sustained exposition of an unfolding mathematical program is unlikely to become the norm, but I would like to mention here Urs’s efforts. Most of his online time now is spent at the nnLab, with discussions at the nnForum. To get the full flavour you need to tune into both. He may not descend quite so far down from the heights to mere mortals as John did, but there’s some wonderful exposition crystallising in the nnLab, stretching from introductory motivational pieces, such as motivation for sheaves, cohomology and higher stacks , to what appear more daunting pages, such as geometry of physics. Even in the case of the latter, the bold idea of wedding the powerful new Univalent Foundations to physics, right up to string theory, is done, in the Baezian spirit, in the belief that the truth must be simple.

Posted by: David Corfield on January 30, 2013 9:10 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

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