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Published on January 30th, 2013 | by Emma

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MPE Australia Launched!

“The view that mathematics is of little or no use permeates through society.” 
– Professor Ian Chubb, Australian Chief Scientist

With a packed lecture theatre and the atmosphere to match, yesterday’s launch of Australia’s participation in Mathematics of Planet Earth was the big red-carpet event for maths and stats.

Australian Chief Scientist, Professor Ian Chubb, opened the proceedings by discussing the growing demand for mathematical and statistical skills in the Australian workforce. He then set the scene for the year: to demonstrate to the public that mathematics underpins every aspect of our culture, science and economy, and challenged us all to refute the claim that mathematics has little relevance to society.

Following the official launch, Professor Simon Levin, Princeton University, delivered the first in the international series of Mathematics of Planet Earth public lectures sponsored by the Simons Foundation. The lecture, entitled The challenge of sustainability and the promise of mathematics, opened our eyes to the parallels between financial systems, ecological systems and governments. Professor Levin demonstrated the immense power – and limitations – of mathematics as a tool for predicting the behaviour of these systems, and hinted at how we might identify the signs of impending crisis. Many were amused by Levin’s question posed in an early-2008 paper published in Nature asking, “Who knows, for instance, how the present concern over sub-prime loans will pan out?”

The lecture concluded with a discussion about models of collective behaviour, and how these may apply to achieving global consensus on environmental issues. Global cooperation really is the holy grail for achieving sustainability, and it seems that mathematics will play a central role. And it all starts with Mathematics of Planet Earth. As Professor Chubb put it: “This year is important for the whole of humanity.”

Read Prof. Chubb’s opening address

Watch Professor Levin’s lecture:

What people are saying about the event:

“I have enjoyed every part of the event, from promotion, registration, notification, seating, introduction and of course the main speech. I think the most pleasant one is the experience to sit with all brilliant minds at the same time to review what mathematics could bring to the innovation and problem solving in any fields of life. Look forward for other possible opportunities in Australia!”

“The talk by Simon Levin was very interesting – it confirmed my view that if one has done mathematics, one can do anything!”

“Outstanding lecturer and content: illustrating the underlying fundamentals of maths in the biological, human, and financial sciences. This is accessible science – clearly articulated.”


 




One comment on “MPE Australia Launched!

  1. Bronwyn Harch on said:

    What I like about Simon’s talk was he showcased the partnership mathematics provides. The primacy of the problem is acknowledged and mathematical science is bought to bear to provide disconfirmation or confirmation. Mathematical scientists need the morale courage to get people to “think” rather than accept any “conventional wisdoms”.

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