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12 August 2023

Terence Tao: the Ukrainian mathematical community was a lot more substantial than I realized

Terence Tao, a professor of the University of California in Los Angeles, gave a course of lectures during the school and conference "Numbers in the Universe" organised by the International Centre for Mathematics in Ukraine. The event took place with a live connection between the audiences at the Kyiv School of Economics and the Institute of Mathematics of the Polish Academy of Sciences. Summarising his week in Warsaw at "Numbers in the Universe", professor Tao wrote on social media:

1. This was my first dual location conference I attended, and the format worked. There were technical glitches and even multiple air raid disruptions, but the high quality video and particularly audio made it feel like the two conference rooms were one. It was only the coffee breaks where we felt the absence of the Kyiv half.

2. The Ukraine mathematical community was a lot more substantial than I realized, from its eager students all the way to its two Fields medalists (Drinfeld and Viazovska). In retrospect I think a lot of this strength was historically obscured during the Cold War era due to the conflation “Soviet Union == Russia” that was common in the West.

3. Even in (perhaps especially in) a deadly war, it is still possible to have laughter and jokes and a generally pleasant time.

– Terence Tao, winner of the Fields Medal 2006