Latest From Science & Engineering, Medicine & Innovation [08.13.14]


An Iranian mathematician is the first woman ever to receive a Fields Medal, often considered to be mathematics’ equivalent of the Nobel Prize.
The recipient, Maryam Mirzakhani, a professor at Stanford, was one of four winners honored on Wednesday at the International Congress of Mathematicians in Seoul, South Korea.
The Fields Medal is given every four years, and several can be awarded at once. The other recipients this year are Artur Avila of the National Institute of Pure and Applied Mathematics in Brazil and the National Center for Scientific Research in France; Manjul Bhargava of Princeton University; and Martin Hairer of the University of Warwick in England.
Much of the research by Dr. Mirzakhani, who was born in Tehran in 1977, has involved the behavior of dynamical systems. There are no exact mathematical solutions for many dynamical systems, even simple ones.
“What Maryam discovered is that in another regime, the dynamical orbits are tightly constrained to follow algebraic laws,” said Curtis T. McMullen, a professor at Harvard who was Dr. Mirzakhani’s doctoral adviser. “These dynamical systems describe surfaces with many handles, like pretzels, whose shape is evolving over time by twisting and stretching in a precise way. They are related to billiards on tables that are not rectangular but still polygonal, like the regular octagon.”
  • Congratulations to American – Iranian Mathematician Maryam Mirzakhani! When I used to look at the ranklist of International Mathematical Olympiad (IMO), I found that the only Muslim-majority country that made it to the top was Iran. Maryam Mirzakhani was one of the young mathematicians who represented Iran in International Mathematical Olympiad and “At the 1995 International Mathematical Olympiad she was the first Iranian student to finish with a perfect score.” [1]
  • Fields Medal winner Maryam Mirzakhani’s work reminds me of an area (complex systems) that I am currently thinking a lot about. Just as you can’t solve dynamical systems exactly, but can discover algebraic laws that constrain a particular variety of dynamical system, in complex systems research, you can’t model and exactly predict a complex system consisting of lots and lots of interacting agents, but there are emergent properties (and regularities) that you discover when you view from a different perspective. So maybe in near future we will discover an algebra for describing emergent properties in complex systems, like cells (consisting of interacting molecules) or brains (consisting of interacting neurons), or ecology (consisting of interacting organisms).

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  1. Maryam Mirzakhani

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