Kennedy Space Center and SIAM Discrete Mathematics Conference

I am travelling this week, so I am keeping the blog short.

I checked off a bucket-list item this weekend: I visited the Kennedy Space Center. I am a huge space enthusiast, and am fascinated by every aspect of space exploration. Every mathematician, scientist, and SFF fan should make this a must-see destination.

On the way to the shuttle Atlantis exhibit, I noticed this quote from Carl Sagan which summed things up perfectly:

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Here I am on the left in front of the Atlantis shuttle and the Hubble Space Telescope. On the right is my selfie at Rocket Garden.

There were three major takeaways from my visit to KSC.

  1. NASAs efforts to put humans into deep space (Earth’s Moon, Mars, and beyond) are progressing, but slowly. We won’t see another moon visit by humans until the mid-2020s. Mars will likely come a decade after.

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    Alan Shepard’s space suit from the first moon landing in 1969.
  2. NASA is underfunded. NASA gets 0.5% of the US Federal budget, compared to 4.5% in the late 1960s during the Apollo missions. In contrast, the military gets over 60% of the budget. NASA now contracts out its launch pads and other services to commercial entities like SpaceX and Boeing.
  3. The future of human evolution is in space. I heard this several times during my visit. Everyone at KSC drank the Kool-Aid: from the retired astronauts you meet, to the shuttle bus drivers. Our species needs to reorient its priorities to make this next step in our evolution a reality.

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    The Saturn rockets, which took humans to the moon.

I am now in Atlanta for the Society of Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM) Discrete Mathematics conference. This is one of the cornerstone conferences in my field of graph theory and discrete mathematics. Hundreds of mathematicians and students converge on the SIAM conferences every other year.

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For me, SIAM is like a high school reunion, although there are many new faces, especially from the upcoming generation of young mathematicians.

Plenary lecture by Persi Diaconis at SIAMDM’16.

Conferences this size can be overwhelming. You tend to sample topics more than go deeply into any one thing, but you can learn about many interesting, current developments in your discipline.

This year I organized a mini-symposium on one of my loves in graph theory: Cops and Robbers and vertex pursuit games. I asked 14 people to speak and all accepted. We are filling up three sessions; I started things off on Monday with my talk on Zombies and Survivors. Always a crowd pleaser, that one.

Cops and Robbers and Decoys talk by Nancy Clarke of Acadia University.

I enjoy networking at these events. If you are reading this, don’t be shy and say hello. I am here until Friday.

Anthony Bonato

 

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