[FOM] Fields Medal

Frank Waaldijk fwaaldijk at gmail.com
Thu Aug 21 14:07:48 EDT 2014

I'm happy for all Fields Medalists (congratulations!), and I appreciate why
Maryam Mirzakhani's medal stands out.

That being said, I would like to add some food for thought here, not meant
as criticism, just something to ponder. Why is this message posted to FOM,
and why is it accepted by the moderator? On the surface, it has little to
do with FOM, since none of the Fields Medalists seem to be working in
FOM-related areas (I know math is highly interconnected of course, but bear
with me please).

Then again, I personally feel that the sociology of mathematics, on which
Harvey Friedman also recently touched on FOM, is highly relevant to the
foundations of mathematics. But so far, the moderator has given sociology
of mathematics only a little breathing space. This does help to keep
discussions on track, I have to admit, but on the other hand there are so
few other places where the relation between the sociology of mathematics
and the foundations of mathematics can be discussed in a meaningful way.
(I'm not saying that I have an easy solution, just pointing out some

I think that if we want to help increase the participation of women in
science <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Women_in_science> (link to
wikipedia), then a very important issue is to consider how we work together
as mathematicians, what kind of cooperative and social climate prevails
etc. From improvement in this climate clearly everyone would benefit...but
somehow I believe that women are more readily influenced by this climate
when making career decisions. Another factor to consider is what
expectations and resistances our educational system offers to women who are
interested in the exact sciences. (We are part of this system, what
expectations and resistances do we add in this respect?) Please see
this video-fragment
with Neil deGrasse Tyson
<https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KEeBPSvcNZQ#t=61m30> from 2009 where the
astrophysicist answers to a question about women in science.

I hesitated to answer to Harvey Friedman's post on how certain problems in
FOM are perceived by non-FOM mathematicians, because I am not knowledgeable
at all in that area, but now is probably a good time to say that I am happy
that he raises such sorts of sociological issues.

Another recent FOM-example comes to mind: the discussion whether set theory
and homotopy type theory are equally (un)suited for the foundations of
mathematics. In my humble opinion, it could be worthwhile in such a
discussion to also explicitly take into account sociological aspects. Hard
as that may be, granted.

Hope to have added something worthwhile here, best wishes to all,

Frank Waaldijk


> From: Harry Deutsch <hdeutsch at ilstu.edu>
> To: FOM at cs.nyu.edu
> Cc:
> Date: Wed, 20 Aug 2014 13:32:53 -0500
> Subject: [FOM] Fields Medal
> Dear FOMers,
> As many of you may well know, Maryam Mirzakhani, a mathematician at
> Stanford University, has won the Fields Medal.  She is the first woman in
> history to have done so.  More information can be found at the website for
> the Association for Women in Mathematics:https://sites.
> google.com/site/awmmath/home
> Harry Deutsch
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