UK Nonlinear News, February 2002

B(A)MC 2002


By Martin Dunwoody and Alistair Fitt

For the first time ever, the April 2002 meeting in Warwick was neither a BMC or a BAMC, but a B(A)MC. The plan was to run a BMC on the first two days of the week, a BAMC on the last two days, and to have a ``crossover'' day in the middle of the week. The experiment proved to be an interesting one, and Andrew Stuart, Robert Mackay and all of their committee are to be congratulated for being brave (foolhardy?) enough to agree to run such a novel meeting.

The Pure Mathematics part of the conference was better attended than many of the recent BMC's. For many delegates - including this reviewer - attending the first part of the week the highlight was a wonderful lecture by Sandy Green on the History of Representation Theory. This involved a discussion of what it would be like to bank with Qqoyds, the quantum bank, in which it would only be possible to get probability estimates for the amount of money in one's account. Sandy also strongly rebutted the views expressed by Sir Michael Atiyah in a plenary lecture at the 2000 BMC and published in a recent LMS Bulletin on the superiority of a geometric approach over an algebraic one.

This reviewer also enjoyed splendid lectures by Joan Birman on "recognising the unknot" and Persi Diaconis on "the search for randomness". This latter lecture would have been very useful to anyone searching for a system to make a fortune at a casino.

The midweek period was a changeover period when the emphasis shifted from pure to applied mathematics. It was interesting for a participant who had only previously experienced a BMC in which the format has evolved into a certain pattern to see the different style which pertains at a BAMC. The idea of having plenary sessions on the ``crossover'' day that would be attended by both Pure and Applied mathematicians appeared to work well, but the verdict on the various discussion groups that also convened that day was less unanimous. The discussion session on discrete mathematics evolved into a surprisingly interesting discussion of the place of discrete methods in modern mathematics; the discussion session on partial differential equations was a lot less productive though.

The Conference Banquet also took place during the changeover period. This was memorable for a faulty fire alarm going off just as the main course was being served, causing all participants to spend fifteen minutes outside in the cold. Rumours that Government policy was strictly implemented as members of 5* Departments were evacuated first (all others being regarded as expendable) appear to have no foundation in truth.

The last two days of the conference were devoted to applied mathematics. The plenary lectures that remain in this reviewer's memory are the outstanding talk on the properties on non-normal matrices by the ever-enthusiastic Nick Trefethen, and Jon Chapman's asymptotic tour de force on the stability of fluid flows. As for the rest of the conference, the jury is still out on whether or not the idea to greatly reduce the number of contributed talks and concentrate more on poster sessions was a wise one. The majority of the contributed talks by PhD students were of a very high standard, and it is obvious that the future of applied mathematics is in good hands. Both the contributed talks and the posters showed that applied mathematics is an ever-broadening field; would a BAMC 20 years ago have included presentations on climate change, foot & mouth disease, artificial kidneys and ping-pong ball avalanches? As always, this reviewer returned from the conference with his stomach slightly larger, but his appetite for mathematics thoroughly re-whetted.

And so to 2003, when the BMC will take place at the University of Birmingham and the BAMC will be organised at the University of Southampton.

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