Math needs no language, says Fields medallist

Published: 26th August 2016 09:59 AM  |   Last Updated: 26th August 2016 09:59 AM   |  A+A-

BENGALURU: Did you know that mathematical thinking is non-verbal in nature and that mathematicians don’t care what language math is written in? French Fields medallist Prof Cedric Villani in a lecture at Infosys here on Thursday said both poetry and math seek to recreate the world. The Able Prize and the Fields Medal are akin to the Nobel Prize in Mathematics.

“Math is not only a way of understanding the world but also a way of recreating the world. World is written in the mathematical language. Math is a language in which physics is written,” Villani said to an audience of academics, students and Infosys employees.

Math.jpgSporting his trademark spider brooch and a three-piece suit, Villani, exclusively speaking to Express said, “There are some deep connections between mathematics and poetry. Manjul Bhargava (Indian-American Fields medallist) also made this connection. Both are about imagination in the subspace. Both are about the power of words to evoke concepts in our minds.”

Currently a professor of mathematics in Lyon University and Director of the Henri Poincaré Institute in Paris, his lecture was peppered with anecdotes and good humour. “Can human emotion be measured by mathematics,” amused him the most, asked by a member in the audience. Infosys Foundation Chairman Sudha Murthy gave some food for though when she asked, “You were taught math in French but we are taught in English and not in our mother tongue. Do you think that has an effect?” Villani promptly said, “For mathematicians it does not matter. Mathematical thinking is non-verbal.”

Villani has given lectures at several mathematical institutes in India. Last week he was at Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), Mumbai. This week he was at TIFR, Bengaluru centre. He will next be in Kolkata. “I loved the experience in Bengaluru. Here the mathematical course structures are quite different from mine. But they are well-informed,” he said.

In his lecture, he said some mathematical ingredient is present behind all science prophecies.

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