Up the ladders of infinity
I applied to give a talk at Boom music festival in 2023. I don’t know how many people there are interested in mathematics, but some would be. In any case, I would like to try and see if I can blow some people’s minds and make them appreciate maths for what it is: a form of human creativity.
Below, you can find my answers to most of the questions in the application form.
Who are you?
my work as a researcher in theoretical physics focusses on weaving a path between gravity and the quantum. I do this because i am deeply fascinated by the concepts involved in understanding these two aspects of the world, and enjoy the creative process of figuring out abstract theoretical questions in a collaborative setting. However, the academic setting is in strong conflict with my desire to be embodied in nature. This i find when i am swimming, diving, hiking, cooking, gardening, dancing, practicing mindful movement. The ocean is the place i feel the most at home. My lifestyle oscillates over the years, more or less wildly, between my desire of embodiment and my passion for the abstract. Right now i am a full time researcher in a european city, getting my embodiment here and there at yoga shalas and climbing gyms, or during my counted holidays. Who knows next?
Please describe the Workshop/Presentation
Infinity. This idea might seem out of reach of puny human intellect, talked about in creation myths, and perhaps glimpses experienced in moments of ecstasy. Mathematics, is one of the ways to reliably glimpse, flirt, and play with different aspects of infinity. In the late 1800s, mathematicians created a whole theory of infinity by generalising our intuitive ideas of size and order, and discovered an infinite array of infinities of different kinds and sizes. “I see it, but I can’t believe it” was a common sentiment for the pioneers of infinity and relived by most who decide to follow their footsteps.
And follow them is what we’ll do. We’ll start at the basement, with the whole numbers ,,, and so on. We will meet absurdly big numbers, numbers that cannot fit into our universe, numbers that can collapse your head into a black hole. But these numbers are still finite. On the ground floor, we will meet the smallest infinity, , the one that is already implied in that seemingly innocuous “and so on”. We will see why and why there are just as many odd numbers as there are whole numbers. Once on the first floor, we will look at the number line, and meet a second infinity, , so large that it eclipses . We will see that there are as many points in the line as there are in a section of it, and as there are in a square. and is all we need for science and technology, but we won’t stop there. We keep going, we will see how there must be an infinite tower of infinities of ever larger sizes.
I will cater the presentation to the Boom crowd, not assuming any technical knowledge beyond . I will make the presentation entertaining, focussing on giving an intuitive sense of the ideas involved, and trying to make it possible to jump in midway. If i’ll be assigned to the liminal village, I will make awesome slides, and if i’m assigned to the being fields, i will prepare a more intimate and interacting experience.
How come our finite selves can make contact with the infinite? Are these deep insights in the nature of the cosmos, or wild pathologies of the thinking mind? And what do laser-shooting pigeons have to do with all this?
Conventional education does a huge disservice to young minds everywhere presenting mathematics like a set of recipes and definitions to be memorised and recited under threat of bad grades. Imagine never experiencing music because school put you off by making you do solfeggio and tune instruments for 10 years. My idea here is to give a taste for the delicious mathematical concepts involved in the study of infinity, because I believe they are truly mind-expanding. I want to give a taste to the audience of how mathematics is a creative and deeply human endeavour.
Link with the Boom 2023 theme: Radical Love (if any)
(tenuous, abstract) Mathematics is a deeply human endeavour, happening mostly in the minds of a community spanning space and time (international community building on the work of the past generations). But it seems to offer a form of communion with the cosmos, as some of its creations allow us to to wrap our heads around the regularities of the world.
1h or so
Technical requirements and support you need from us
Standard audio/video requirements to give a keynote during the day if in the liminal village. If you assign me to the being fields, then i can bring my own materials (whiteboard and markers).
Environmental, social, and spiritual awareness
Mathematics is contemplative work that can be done with basic technology. It can be done by people of any gender, ethnicity, ad social background. I believe it is a (terse, constrained, specific, niche) form of art, and it is a shame that it is missing from so many people’s life. The insights obtained during mathematical explorations can be truly mind expanding, and connect us to a tradition that spans all of time.
Here is a video of me giving a 20min presentation in front of 80 or so academics. Obviously this is pitched at a different level, but hopefully you can glean from this that 1) i can talk to a live audience and 2) my presentations are not extremely boring.
Here is a recording of a zoom presentation on quantum entanglement and the interpretations of quantum mechanics that i gave to a friend’s yoga studio. It was probably a bit fast for them, but again you can see that I can keep things relatively simple, accessible, and engaging.
Minimum conditions required to participate
I already have tickets to Boom, and i don’t need financial support. But I do not want to give the presentation if it means missing Astrix, Ace, Atmos, or Omiki.
What is Boom Festival for you?
The simplest way to put it is that it is my favourite place to experience transcendence through music, art, and psychedelia. It is a slice of a solarpunk utopia, one of the most special places on earth, setting an example that more and more people will follow. It’s where fell in love, and where I get new energy to live the life I want to live.
Why would you like to present your work at Boom?
To share my passions with others, to challenge myself in a new environment, to try and mix two aspects of my life that are too separate at the moment, to meet new people.