Mathematics and the Environment in Iran

I’ve been invited to speak on mathematics and environmental issues at this conference:

Forty-Second Annual Iranian Mathematics Conference (AIMC42), Vali-e-Asr University, Rafsanjan, Iran, 5-8 September 2011.

There is something inherently distasteful about flying around the world to talk about global warming, given the large amount of carbon burnt to fuel air travel. I’ve already turned down a couple of requests to give talks in the US and Europe, since they’re so far from my current home in Singapore. Only later did I think of the good solution, though it was perfectly obvious in retrospect: accept all these invitations to speak, but only on the condition that I give my talk over video-link. That may nudge institutions a bit towards the post-carbon future. They can accept or not, but either way they’ll have to think about these issues.

But Iran is close enough to Singapore, and the opportunity to speak about these issues to Iranian mathematicians is unusual enough, and potentially important enough, that I feel this talk is a good idea.

Do you know anything interesting about what Iranians, especially mathematicians or physicists, are doing about environmental issues?

(Note: I’m not interested in talking about politics here.)

8 Responses to Mathematics and the Environment in Iran

  1. Tom Leinster says:

    As you may have discovered, there’s the following eight-year-old survey article on Iranian environmentalism:

    The environmental movement in Iran: perspectives from below and above, Middle East Journal 57 (2003), 432-448.

    I haven’t read past the first page, but it seems to be focused on the sociology rather than the science.

    • John Baez says:

      Thanks! No, I hadn’t discovered that. I haven’t done any research on environmentalism in Iran yet: I was so excited to be giving this talk that I just blogged about it instantly!

  2. mathlight says:

    Well, in Iran, specially southern, as in much of the neighboring middle-east world, there is still a good percentage of houses built with old, very efficient, “natural” cooling systems. Typically one has a well with water under the house, and the corridors which tunnel air so that the air flows above the water, takes some humidity from there, cools in the process and litfs up. This is a sample of non-equilibrium thermodynamics. Even in very hot areas, without energy-expensive modern air-conditioning they keep the houses cold. Much of the house efficiency research in the west is to get more sun in the winters, but very little about the natural cooling and even less for the well-assisted systems. I am not sure if the Iranians do some advancement of such systems for the modern buildings or they just employ it in the traditional housing ?

    In the modern world summer electricity shortages are part in due to air-conditioning which is in most of the western places fir to disgustingly low temperatures. Coming to a typical university library or a public bus in summer clothes (short sleeves etc.) one feels cold: the temperature is below the temperature which they set their heaters on in winters when we use pullovers and thick trousers. The body suffers shock in changing the environment which has such harsh systems.

    Zoran Škoda

  3. mathlight says:

    Of course, the water-well assisted cooling owes it efficiency in large part to the dryness of the near-desert air; one should also note that the nights are much cooler than days there. But the modern building do not take much of these advantages, anyway.

  4. John Baez says:

    Zoran wrote:

    Well, in Iran, specially southern, as in much of the neighboring middle-east world, there is still a good percentage of houses built with old, very efficient, “natural” cooling systems. Typically one has a well with water under the house, and the corridors which tunnel air so that the air flows above the water, takes some humidity from there, cools in the process and lifts up.

    Hi! Thanks for reminding me! Maybe I can find a nice way to mention this in my talk.

    A while back my friend Greg Egan visited the marvelous ancient city of Yazd in Iran. Here are two photos he took:

    The second one shows a bad gir, or ‘windcatcher’—a natural cooling system based on the Bernoulli effect.

    As you mentioned, a windcatcher is especially effective in conjunction with a qanat—an underground water tunnel, commonly used for irrigation in the Middle East. Here’s how people combine a qanat and a windcatcher:

    I love the idea of this sort of system, since it doesn’t use any external power source — just the wind, water and the laws of physics. Green technology, centuries old!

    For more, see:

    Qanat, Azimuth Wiki.

    Windcatcher, Azimuth Wiki.

    Here’s a picture of Yazd from an Iranian tourist website:

    I’d love to visit Yazd. Rafsanjan is less famous, but I now see it’s supposed to have some traditional desert architecture. I’ll have to find out whether that includes qanat or windcatchers!

    A tourist website recommends seeing the Hussain Abad, Qasem Abad and Abad Avaran water springs, and the Imamzadeh Shah Ismaiel and Sabahi mosques.

    But what I really want to know about is Iranian mathematicians and physicists, and whether any are working on environmental issues.

  5. John Baez says:

    I’m trying to get a visa to go to Iran in 20 days. The story so far:

    The Iranian government has approved my visit, I was given a ‘reference number’, and my hosts told me to contact the Pakistani embassy in Washington DC – since there’s no Iranian embassy there – and then go there and pick up the visa. They probably forgot I was in Singapore.

    Anyway, I contacted the Pakistani embassy and they said “hold on, we’ll connect you to the department that does Iranian visas”. A woman answered and said “Let me give you the number of the Iranian ?????” – I couldn’t quite hear the last word. I said: “but I was told to contact the Pakistani embassy”. She answered: “and you did, and I’m telling you to call the Iranian ?????.” I said: “yup!”

    I called that number and a very friendly man asked me for the reference number. I told him and he said “No, we don’t have anything under that number. What’s your passport number?” And I told him and he said “No, we don’t have anything under that number. Maybe the fax didn’t go through. Contact your hosts and tell them to try again.” And since he was so friendly I said that while I was an American citizen, I was actually living in Singapore, and he said “oh, then contact your hosts and have them get the government to send the reference number to the Iranian embassy in Singapore”.

    So I asked them to do that, and today I received my host an email saying “There is no Iranian consulate in Singapore. Can you go to Indonesia? The Iranian embassy in Indonesia handles all visas for Singapore.”

    And I checked… and despite some tantalizing false alarms, like this and this, it seems there’s no Iranian embassy or consulate in Singapore. If you know of one, PLEASE TELL ME!!!

    So, I said “A ticket to Jakarta to visit the Iranian embassy in Indonesia will cost about $300, and the flight takes about 2 hours each way. Do you want to pay for this, or should we decide this is too complicated?”

    I’ll keep you informed of what happens next.

You can use Markdown or HTML in your comments. You can also use LaTeX, like this: $latex E = m c^2 $. The word 'latex' comes right after the first dollar sign, with a space after it.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s