A small update from Israel and memories from Singapore: Partha Dasgupta, Robin Mason, Frank Ramsey, and 007

A small update about the situation here in Israel

Eight weeks ago I wrote that my heart goes out to the people of Wuhan and China, and these days my heart goes out to people in Italy, Spain, the US, Iran, France, the United Kingdom, Germany, Netherland and many other countries all over the world. Of course, I am especially worried about the situation here in my beloved country Israel, and let me tell you a little about it.

The pandemic started here late but it hit us pretty hard with 5,358 identified cases yesterday. Severe measures of social distancing were gradually introduced, and right now it is too early to tell if the pandemic is under control.

My part in this struggle is to stay at home. (Many Israeli scientists are making various endeavors and proposing ideas of various kind for fighting the disease and I salute them all for their efforts.) Like all of us I am very thankful to medical and other essential workers who are in the front-lines. As a scientist, I am especially impressed by the people from the Ministry of Health who manage the crisis and communicate with the public. They represent the very best we can offer in terms of science and medicine, decision making, gathering information, communicating with the public, and managing the crisis. In the picture below you can see three of the leaders – Moshe Bar Siman Tov (middle) Prof. Itamar Grotto (right) and Professor Sigal Sadetzki (left).

And now for today’s post

We had a tradition of sharing entertaining taxi-and-more stories and this post belongs to this category. We note that our highest quality story teller Michal Linial, a prominent Israeli biologist, is now involved in various aspects of the struggle against the disease. Our post today is part of a report by Michal Feldman and me on our experience from the ICA3 conferences in Singapore and Birmingham.

Partha Dasgupta, Robin Mason, Frank Ramsey, and James Bond

After hearing about him for many years, it was a great pleasure for both Michal Feldman and myself to finally meet Partha Dasgupta in person and to listen to his lecture. Partha who is the Frank Ramsey Professor of Economics at Cambridge was introduced by a person, who entered the room directly from an intercontinental flight, whom we did not know but who made a strong impression on us. He devoted part of his introduction to Frank Ramsey who was a mathematician, philosopher and economist, and who had made fundamental contributions to algebra and had developed the canonical model of saving in economic growth, before he died at the young age of 26. (And yes! also Ramsey’s theorem!)

Seeing the introducer, Robin Mason, three words came into our minds (more precisely two words, one repeated twice): “Bond, James Bond.”

Indeed, this has led to the following sequence of profound ideas:

1) Robin Mason is a perfect choice for a new generation James Bond.

2) The name “James Bond” is overused. “Robin Mason” is a perfect name to replace the name “James Bond”.

3) Espionage is a little obsolete and it lost much of its prestige and charm. Science and academia is the new thing! An international interdisciplinary academics is the perfect profession which, at present, deserves the prestige formely associated with espionage.

In summary, we came a full circle. Robin Mason is the perfect new choice for James Bond, “Robin Mason” is the perfect new name to replace the name “James Bond,” and Mason’s academic activities and title of Pro-Vice-Chancellor (International) are the perfect replacement for Bond’s activities and the title ‘007’.

(The option of Mason playing his role on the movies rather than in real life should be considered. ‘Q’ could be handy for science as well. )

Clique here for Robin’s introduction and Partha’s lectur

This entry was posted in Algebra, Combinatorics, Conferences, Economics, Taxi-and-other-stories, Updates and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to A small update from Israel and memories from Singapore: Partha Dasgupta, Robin Mason, Frank Ramsey, and 007

  1. Gil Kalai says:

    Some updates on the first part: In the last three days the number of new identified cases have stabilized (on around 700 new cases every day), but we will know only in a few days if this trend will persist, and if it reflects slowdown in the spread of the disease rather than worsening in our ability to monitor the disease.

    Reasons for concern: First, the number of tests per every new case went down since mid March. (This suggests that our ability to identify new cases went down.) Second, there are some sectors in society with considerably higher increase rate. Third, the coming Passover gatherings (if instructions will not be fully follow) may lead to a jump in the number of cases. Reasons for optimism: First, there are plans for increase in the number of tests and also of more efficient use of the tests themselves. Second, rising temperatures may improve matter.

  2. Gil Kalai says:

    A quick update: The number of confirmed cases is now a little over 13,000, and there are about 300 new cases every day in the last several days. As it seems now that the situation is under control, there is a decision to relax the measures in a few days and (I hope) very carefully monitor the effect on spreading the disease.

  3. Gil Kalai says:

    Two quick updates. The strict measures to stop the spread were apparently effective and for several weeks we witnessed only 20-50 new cases a day. Several weeks after they were lifted we came back to a level of 200-300 new cases per day and the spread may increase even further.

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