Mathematics of Planet Earth

While struggling to prepare my talk on “what mathematicians can do”, I remembered this website pointed out by Tom Leinster:

Mathematics of Planet Earth 2013.

The idea is to get lots of mathematicians involved in programs on these topics:

• Weather, climate, and environment
• Health, human and social services
• Planetary resources
• Population dynamics, ecology and genomics of species
• Energy utilization and efficiency
• Connecting the planet together
• Geophysical processes
• Global economics, safety and stability

There are already a lot of partner societies (including the American Mathematical Society) and partner institutes. I would love to see more details, but this website seems directed mainly at getting more organizations involved, rather than saying what any of them are going to do.

There is a call for proposals, but it’s a bit sketchy. It says:

A call to join is sent to the planet.

which makes me want to ask “From where?”

(That must be why I’m sitting here blogging instead of heading an institute somewhere. I never fully grew up.)

I guess the details will eventually become clearer. Does anyone know some activities that have been planned?

12 Responses to Mathematics of Planet Earth

  1. nad says:

    You could fill out their form and see what happens.

    Contact: Baez, John
    Institution: The Azimuth Institute
    Email: baez@math…
    Title of activity: blogging
    start date of activity:—
    end date of activity:—
    address of sponsoring partner: Dept. of Math, UC Riverside
    Brief description of the sponsoring organization if the organization is not a partner:—?

  2. Tim van Beek says:

    John asked:

    …which makes me want to ask “From where?”

    It is of course a non-surjective endo-message (domain = codomain = earth).

    I’m surprised that there is no further explanation on the home page about the origin of the whole idea: an “about us” page or paragraph is missing. But it would seem that it is mostly about getting math faculties to organize their usual activities with a special emphasis on the listed topics in 2013, but since most haven’t made any plans about 2012, or 2011 even, I don’t expect that there are already any concrete ideas.

    Me, I would of course be interested in something similar to the Third International Workshop on Software Research Challenges and Climate Change, only with a stronger emphasis on mathematics. For example “steps towards a global open source community for numerical mathematics”.

  3. tomate says:

    With a bit more humor, they could have called the project Mathematics Visits Planet Earth.

  4. streamfortyseven says:

    Here’s the contact info. She’s a prof in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics at the University of Montreal. It looks like a great idea and a great graphic and not much else…

  5. Y.P. says:

    This may be of interest as a high-level overview of how the international Numerical Weather Prediction community envisions strategic planning for advancing weather and climate forecasting, with a view toward fuller earth-system simulation.

    The whole October 2010 issue of BAMS is available here:

  6. Roger Witte says:

    ‘Never having fully grown up’ may be a pre-requisite for continuing to innovative mathematical research, even if it is antithetical to running an institution. I certainly agree with nad: the n-category cafe/nlab is certainly the germ of a new kind of mathematical research institution (even if it isn’t quite recognised as such by ‘the establishment’ yet). azimuth/the azimuth project is clearly intended to become another example of the same kind of research institution (although, to your surprise, it may be researching a subject other than mathematics. Furthermore, there is still a long way to go.)

  7. The new vice-president of the International Mathematical Union is Christiane Rousseau. Rousseau was already spearheading the Mathematics of Planet Earth 2013 project. Now she’s organizing a ten-year research initiative on sustainability at the IMU.

  8. John Baez says:

    The Centre de Recerca Matemàtica (or CRM) in Barcelona is a place that hosts mathematicians for conferences and also longer-term programs. I was there a few years a few years ago for a program on homotopy theory and higher categories. It’s a good place, though far from the beautiful downtown.

    Now CRM is a partner of Mathematics of Planet Earth 2013, and they’re encouraging applications to organize activities around this theme! Applicants should follow the procedures explained here.

    If any mathematicians, biologists, climate scientists, or people working on sustainability are interested in talking about this, please drop me a line, either here or by email! I can imagine wanting to help write an application.

    On a separate but related note: I’ve been invited to a CRM program on The Mathematics of Biodiversity from 18 June to July 20, 2012. It’s being organized by Ben Allen (Harvard University), Sılvia Cuadrado (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona), Tom Leinster (coordinator, University of Glasgow), Richard Reeve (University of Glasgow) and John Woolliams (University of Edinburgh). I’m not sure I can stay there the whole time, but I’ll try to stay as long as I can.

  9. Florifulgurator says:

    The abstract of the 2012 CRM conference mentions a “recent series of papers by Jost (2006, 2007, 2009)”. Is that Jürgen Jost? Which papers?

    • Tom Leinster says:

      Hi Flori,

      I wrote the blurb from which the document on the CRM website was extracted. Unfortunately, it’s been removed from its context in such a way that the references aren’t present. Fortunately, John has sent me to the rescue.

      Jost is Lou Jost, an ex-physicist turned ecologist who, as far as I can tell, spends his days valiantly protecting the biodiversity of the flora and fauna of Ecuador, and his nights writing penetrating theoretical papers on the measurement of biodiversity. The papers cited are:

      Lou Jost, Entropy and diversity. Oikos 113 (2006), 363-375.

      Lou Jost, Partitioning diversity into independent alpha and beta components. Ecology 88 (2007), 2427-2439.

      Lou Jost, Mismeasuring biological diversity: response to Hoffmann and Hoffmann. Ecological Economics 68 (2008), 925-928.

      Let me know if you want any more information.

  10. A while back, I mentioned that 2013 will be a special year for programs on the Mathematics of Planet Earth. They’re inviting mathematicians to organize workshops on this theme at the Banff International Research Station for Mathematical Innovation and Discovery, or BIRS […]

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