ICM2018: Closing Ceremonies

With Peter Sarnak, Stas Smirnov, and Tadashi Tokieda at  Sugar Loaf (Pão de Açúcar), Rio.

At Sugar Loaf with Stas and Edward Dunne

This is my second report from ICM 2018. Some acronyms are used in this post. ICM = International Congress of Mathematicians; IMU = International Mathematical Union, an organization running the ICMs’ GA = General assembly (of the IMU) a body of representatives from the member countries of the IMU.

And a special bonus at the end of the post: Test your intuition question.

Here is a post from the ICM 2018 web-site about my lecture: Kalai plenary ponders possibilities of quantum computing. And here is the link to the ICM 2018 site itself.

Standing ovation to Ali Nesin, Sevan Nişanyan and the Mathematics Village

The IMU Leelavati Prize is an award for outstanding contribution to public outreach in mathematics. Unlike most prizes “Leelavati” is not a name of a person (a man in most cases) but rather the name of  12th-century Indian mathematical treatise. The story of this year’s laureate, the Turkish mathematicians Ali Nesin and Sevan Nişanyan who built together a mathematical village to educate and advance children, is moving and quite amazing.

A rare standing ovation for Nasin, and Nişanyan

 Nesin (left) and Nişanyan

Atiya,  Nesin, and Nişanyan

A few words on the choice between Saint Petersburg and Paris


Some members of the Russian delegation after Saint Petersburg was announced as the winner (left), Stas Smirnov and François Loeser shake hands after the announcement. Both François and Stas were stars of my Hyderabad ICM 2010 reports. (I,II).

Mathematicians love sequences – here is the sequence of cities of post WWII ICMs

Cambridge (MA); Amsterdam, Edinburgh, Stockholm, Moscow, Nice, Vancouver,  Helsinki, Warsaw, Berkeley, Kyoto, Zurich, Berlin, Beijing, Madrid, Hyderabad, Seoul, Rio,…

What is the law governing these choices? All these countries have good mathematics and a few have superb mathematics. Some of these cities represented democratic countries and some did  not, and there are many shades of grey.   The hosting countries also differ in terms of economic systems, human rights, foreign policies and various other things.   If there is an emerging law for the sequence of cities it is that first, except for extreme cases,  it is largely politically blind, and second, that an attempt is made to outreach and make ICMs s truly world wide experience. (The second item also characterizes  other important activities of the IMU.)

This time the choice was between two fantastic cities, Paris and Saint Petersburg. The IMU executive committee had chosen Saint Petersburg,  but this was challenged (for the first time, as far as I know) and at the end the GA democratically voted 83:63 (4 abstentions) for Saint Petersburg. For the full list of resolutions of the GA see this page. My feeling is that also many mathematicians from Russia and the former Soviet Union who live abroad (many also in Israel) were happy with this opportunity of a “mathematical reunion” in 2022. There was one additional GA resolution that caused some controversy that maybe I will mention in a future post.

Anyway, another exciting moment at the closing ceremony was

Andrei and Stas’s invitation to Saint Petersburg

Andrei Okounkov and Stas Smirnov came with matching casual clothes and declared that this was because it was time for them to start working.  I first met Andrei and Stas in Saint Petersburg in a 2004 conference celebrating Anatoly (Tolya) Vershik’s 70th birthday. (Here is a link to Vershik’s amazing home page.) (Picture: ICM 2018 site)


Test your intuition

The Guardian (yesterday) 

A TYI question with an answer (below the fold)

With the landmark decision (Thursday, yesterday) of the Indian supreme court, homosexual sexual activity is now legal in every country that ever hosted the ICM.

Test your intuition: When was homosexual  sexual activity nationally legalized first, and by how many years,  in Brazil or in the US.?  (Answer, below the fold.)

Shana Tova Umetuka (Good and Sweet  New Jewish Year) to all our readers.

A few more ICM 2018 pictures





Answer to trivia question (use your mouse):  Homosexuality was nationwide legalized in Brazil in 1831 and in the US in 2003 (172 years later).

Here is when homosexual sexual relations were legalized in some ICM hosted countries and other selected countries.  France – 1791; The Netherlands – 1811; Brazil – 1831,  Turkey – 1858,  Switzerland – 1942; Jordan – 1951; Spain – 1979, United Kingdom – 1982 (Scotland, 1981, England and Wales 1967); Israel – 1988;  Russia 1997 (Illegal in practice in Chechnya); China – 1998; U.S. 2003; Korea (both South and North) always legal;  India – Apparently 2018,  yesterday – August, 6, 2018  (See Omer’s comment about Russia and Wikipedea sources  AsiaEurope, Americas,  Africa).

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6 Responses to ICM2018: Closing Ceremonies

  1. omer says:

    I’m not sure whether homosexuality (in the sense of being homosexual) was ever illegal in many of the places you include there. Many actions associated with homosexuality were illegal, and many still are. The decriminalization you write about relates only to sexual activity. Other related activities are still illegal in Russia. This includes marriage (and associated rights such as inheritance, hospital visitation rights, etc), procreation, etc.
    In these and in their “anti propaganda” laws, Russia is one of the worst countries on the list above.
    Saying that Russia decriminalized homosexuality in 97 is misleading and a half-truth at best.

    • Gil Kalai says:

      Omer, you are absolutely right. I referred to laws against homosexual sexual relations which is just one aspect of LGBT rights (I have now changed the wording in the post). I found it striking that legalization in Brazil occurred 173 years before the US, but Brazil is a violent country with substantial amount of homophobic and transphobic violence. (The US is also a violent country.) Indeed, in Russia, gay rights and human rights in general are declining.

  2. Was the other controversial point the renaming/replacement of the Nevanlinna prize?

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