Mathematical travel vignettes:
An airport whose location I don't remember. Layover. Reading at a small table outside a pseudo-Starbucks, skylights letting in streams of sunlight, reading about V.I. Arnold's mathematical legacy in the Notices. He skied thirty to fifty kilometers a day on his winter trips and ran long distances too. I can ski thirty kilometers but I can't yet run ten. I love Arnold's mathematics and mathematical viewpoint, to the extent I understand it. Imagining myself at one of his seminars or trips to the countryside... frightening! intimidating! After reading the article I had another hour left to explore some combinatorial implications of the geometry I was thinking about.
A coffeeshop in Berkeley during the free day at an MSRI workshop. I wander in for caffeination and find someone from my master's thesis committee and a half-dozen other mathematicians I recognize even if I don't know them. Laptop lids up, coffee at the ready. I get to ask some questions about a paper I'm stuck on: they have no idea what the author is talking about either. The notation is simply not defined in the paper. Work from first principles -- what must it mean?
The best baingan bharta I've ever eaten was at an Indian restaurant a few blocks from the site of the 2012 Joint Mathematics Meetings.
I missed many of the glories of Marseille because when I visited Luminy I was entirely occupied with a problem that I felt I was finally making progress on. I went on a hike to the coast, twice, and did float in the ocean -- took some beautiful pictures -- but the hikes were almost entirely mathematical discussions. It was beautiful.
I'm packing again tonight. Last time I went to visit this collaborator, I got so jazzed up on the ideas I only slept three hours the second night I was there.
I'll have a layover in another anonymous airport. Better bring some more inspiration.
2 weeks ago