Warsaw Day 2: Getting to Know You … and Topology

There are four kinds of mathematicians in the world:

  1. Those who climb mountains;
  2. Those who play chess;
  3. Those who listen to music;
  4. and everyone else.

— Dr. X, Conference organizer.

He took me aside and said this to me at the coffee break. I was gulping milky sweet tea, and dunking cookies to spare my braces (yes, I have braces). “So,” he asked with a twinkle, “which one are you?” A chess player, I said.  “Then you are a Russian at heart. All the best Russian mathematicians play chess.”


I had more tea with the Russians. They didn’t know what to make of a youngish female mathematician. They said I should come to Russia and study.  They said Russian was difficult, but well worth the effort since so many beautiful theorems had been originally written in Russian.

Ah, the Russians:


 ikolmog001p1 markov




On the conference side of things, much topology today:

  • S. Bauer – On refined Seiberg – Witten invariants (and the “Jungle” of 4-Manifolds);
  • T. Popelensky – Polytopes and K-theory:  Generalization of Volodin K-Theory for Col-divisible polytopes. Volodin turns out to be isomorphic to Quillen.
  • M.Starostka – Infinite dimensional cohomology theory and the Conley index, and important results for the Floer boundary operator.
  • N. Waterstraat – A family index theorem for periodic Hamiltonian
    systems and bifurcation; index bundles for self-adjoint Fredholm operators; bifurcation of periodic orbits.

Somewhere in there I had lunch with a French mathematician from Nice, and an Israeli: back at U Szwejka , since it was close and we were ravenous. They were serving the Monday special: wiener schnitzel the size of a human torso. The Frenchman told me that wiener schnitzel that large was referred to (accurately if inelegantly) as “Schnitzel die Größe eines wc-sitz!” — Schnitzel the size of a toilet seat! — yes, they really say that in Vienna. Knock one of these babies down with a liter of Warka, and you’re in Happyland:


Dinner found me knocking back half-liters of Warka at Piwiarnia Warka with three Germans, who spent quite some time educating me about what a superterrific guy Bismarck was. He sounds like a shrewd politician, at the very least. I’ll check out his biography when I get back to the island.

We also talked about normal, quiet things: picking mushrooms and berries in the summer, how awful Oktoberfest has become, what the kids and grandkids are up to these days (horse-farm, classical pianist, mathematician). The Germans are Hiking Mathematicians, class 1 from above.  I’m very Colin Farrell about heights: “The view of what? The view of down here? I can see that from down here.”

Well, I am, as usual, full of good food, good beer, and engrossing conversation. Off to bed — another full day ahead.


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