Artists, Philanthropists, Politicians join mathematicians in celebrating BIRS-affiliate research facility in Oaxaca

Posted on Tue, Feb 11 2014 16:27:00

Mexico announces major funding for BIRS-affiliate research facility in Oaxaca

Posted on Fri, Feb 07 2014 10:49:00

Today, the Governor of the Mexican State of Oaxaca, Lic. Gabino Cué Monteagudo, and the Director General of the National Council for Science and Technology (CONACyT), Dr. Enrique Cabrero Mendoza, announced an infrastructure grant of 43-million pesos towards funding the construction and the operations of Casa Matematica Oaxaca (CMO), a research facility affiliated with the Banff International Research Station (BIRS).

The research facility will be built on a lot adjacent to El Centro de las Artes (CASA) that was generously donated by the eminent Mexican artist, Francisco Toledo. The Center is located in San Agustín Etla, a town that lies in a picturesque canyon in the foothills of the Sierra de San Felipe seventeen miles north of the city of Oaxaca.

Twenty-five BIRS workshops have already been selected to run at CMO in 2015. These will be in addition to the 52 workshops that will be hosted at Banff. For the remaining part of the year, CMO will be hosting summer schools and math education workshops for high schools teachers and students.

We would like to thank our Mexican colleagues, who have been working tirelessly towards making this exciting initiative a reality, in particular, Dr. José Antonio De la Peña, Director of CIMAT, Dr. Carlos Arámburo, vice-rector for research at the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico (UNAM), as well as UNAM’s Professor of Mathematics, Dr. Maria Emilia Caballero. Special thanks also go to members of the BIRS Board, Dr. Javier Bracho, Director of Instituto de Matemáticas, (UNAM), and former Mexican Cabinet minister, Dr. Juan Ramón de la Fuente.

We are greatly indebted to Dr. Enrique Cabrero Mendoza, and to Dr. Elias Micha (Deputy Director of Regional Development at CONACyT), whose commitment to a pan-American vision for science and technology, made this North-American collaborative effort possible. Special thanks go to Governor Lic. Gabino Cué Monteagudo and to Mtro. Fr Francisco Toledo for bringing this international initiative to the state of Oaxaca. The world’s scientific community owes them all a great deal of gratitude.

Doug Mitchell, Chair of the Board of BIRS
Nassif Ghoussoub, BIRS Scientific Director


The 2015 Scientific Program

Posted on Thu, Jan 30 2014 15:47:00

TBC President Discusses BIRS’ Role in Ambitious Agenda

Posted on Wed, Jan 22 2014 16:27:00

The Banff Centre, a haven for the creative arts within a world-renowned nature reserve – the Banff National Park – lies in an incredible valley between some of the most majestic mountains in the world. This place, which has for thousands of years been a gathering place for indigenous peoples and a place of healing and transformation, has a special quality that lends perfectly to the purpose of The Banff Centre (TBC) and in turn, The Banff International Research Station (BIRS), which is situated on its stunning campus.

The Banff Centre was founded in 1933 to bring people with great transformative ideas together to collaborate across disciplines and play a part in shaping the world. “We are now the largest arts and cultural incubator in the world” says TBC president, Jeff Melanson. Each year, TBC hosts 4000 artists to develop new works, nearly 2000 mathematicians (through BIRS), 2000 business leaders (through their leadership development programs) and over 20000 other guests who visit the site for conferences and other personal and societal transformation.

“We are a special site, both as gathering point and because of the unique physical attributes of Banff; we facilitate profound conversations, deep dive exploration of key issues and big social change” says Melanson. To have BIRS located at this site offers a unique opportunity to join scientists and mathematicians with the creative types and artists at The Banff Centre and initiate conversations that might otherwise be impossible. “It has created a robust collision. On an ongoing basis we’ll find artists going to BIRS events and BIRS scholars coming to performances and interacting with artists.”

As the partnership between these two institutions strengthens, they take advantage of the opportunities to co-present public lecture series and utilize the broadcast capacity of TBC to take some of the big ideas of BIRS and its scholars and create a discourse that is relevant around the world. In November, for example, Florin Diacu gave a talk – on Megadisasters and the science behind predicting catastrophes, be they earthquakes, economic crashes or astronomical phenomena – to a captivated audience of 100 mathematicians, scientists and general public.

Melanson, who has been president of TBC since 2012, has recently introduced and begun implementation of an ambitious agenda that aims to expand the centre’s scope far beyond the secluded Banff location. While the plan, which includes three radio stations, a TV channel, web casting, scaling up the Banff Press, a publishing venture and more website offerings, may seem like a huge endeavour, Melanson believes that it is a well-grounded plan and will provide an opportunity to not only gather the best and brightest minds, “but to ensure that we have a very profound multi-platform dissemination strategy that gets those ideas out there on the world stage. BIRS can play a tremendous role in that by sharing mathematical content, as well as collaborating with artists, creatives, the business and scientific community.”

Another aspect of the new vision is in leadership development and creating the Peter Loughheed Leadership Institute, which will include new training program summits, policy research capacity and indigenous leadership, a global center for civil service, new approaches to business design, social innovation and creative industries in k-12 education. Here, “What BIRS really allows us to do is marry a lot of the social policy or soft science that we would specialize in with a much more quantitative approach to research” says Melanson.

A third phase of the TBC vision is campus development and renewal. In addition to revamping most of the existing campus, the centre will be building large scale presenting facilities in downtown Banff. “We see BIRS playing a fairly major role as we move a lot of our public conversation of the incubatory thoughtful sight on the hill and move more into the public realm making conversations (when appropriate) publicly accessible.”

What is critical to The Banff Centre, and to its partnership with BIRS, says Melanson, “is the notion of creating and curating public conversation… to really use some of these best and brightest minds and present them in a way that is really accessible and profound. Our progressive vision will ensure that Banff becomes this place for profound inflection, social change and transformation. BIRS will play a meaningful role in ensuring that we are very well fleshed out in terms of disciplines and practices.”

The Mathematics of Megadisasters: BIRS talks with Florin Diacu

Posted on Fri, Dec 13 2013 10:38:00

Florin Diacu is a Canadian mathematician and author. He is currently a professor in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics at the University of Victoria, doing research in the field of dynamical systems. He is the recipient of the Best Academic Book Award in 2011 for his volume Megadisasters: Predicting the Next Catastrophe , the subject of his public lecture at The Banff Centre on November 14, 2013. This was the second talk in a series of joint Banff Centre/BIRS public lectures, which is part of The Banff Centre's Leading Ideas Speaker Series.

Diacu began research in celestial mechanics while completing his PhD thesis at the University of Heidelberg, Germany and focused on collisions between celestial bodies; however, the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami caused him to look elsewhere at mathematical models that affect the earth. That megadisaster killed close to 250 000 people and spurred questions relating to research on not only earthquakes and tsunamis, but also collisions of meteors with the earth, volcanic eruptions, rapid climate change, pandemics and stock market crashes, not all of which are as destructive, but nonetheless influence people’s lives significantly.

His book is written for the general public, and thus lends perfectly to this public lecture series. “I was mostly interested in telling people the state of the art relative to predicting these megadisasters. In most cases we have mathematical models that help us. In British Columbia, for example, we know that a big earthquake is coming and that it’s going to be the biggest disaster ever in North America (magnitude nine or higher). It could happen in 20 generations, but it could be any time. The problem is knowing what to do under such circumstances and how to recognize the signs.”

During his talk, Diacu gave an example of the benefits of being educated on warning signs. In 2004, a ten-year-old girl was with her family on a beach in Phuket, Thailand. The girl noticed that the sea looked bubbly and was reminded of a movie she had recently seen about the Hawaii tsunami of 1946, which depicted a similar phenomenon directly before the wave hit. Because she recognized the warning sign, the girl was able to warn her family and the lifeguard on duty, and save the lives of a 100 other tourists who were on the beach that day.

Diacu is currently on a panel that oversees a marine observatory near the coast of British Columbia and are working to implement an early warning system for earthquakes. “They cannot be predicted long in advance” he explains, “From the moment an earthquake is triggered until we get hit by the wave might be only ten to thirty seconds, but if a system is implemented we could, for instance, automatically stop or slow down trains to prevent them from derailing or stop gas supplies, as the pipes break during earthquakes and cause fires and explosions. We are trying to see exactly how a warning system might work, and then convince government and other private organizations to provide financial support.”

There were about 100 people in the audience for the lecture in Banff, a mix of about 40 mathematicians and 60 members of the general public. “With a talk like this you have to keep it general and supply many images and examples that the audience can relate to and understand without a background in the science. It is very rewarding because you know that people leave the room having learned something new and useful. And I find with this topic that there is so much interest and inquiry from the audience that the questions actually lasted longer than the talk.”

As a member of the PIMS executive at the time of BIRS inception, Diacu is very proud of how the organization has evolved. “We had originally thought to develop a site somewhere very isolated, but we gain much more by being at The Banff Centre because we can also interact with the people there. BIRS is not just mathematicians interacting with each other, but with the public lectures, plays, movies and concerts being held at The Banff Centre, and through this Leading Idea Series, BIRS is further able to contribute to that unique interaction between arts and science.”

8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16