I went to the Joint Mathematics Meetings two weeks ago with the idea that I would post reports live and on location from San Antonio. I was dazzled by the mere possibility of doing this. Sitting in a lecture hall, listening to a talk, connected to the Net via the invisible magic of WiFi, I could publish my notes before the speaker even sat down. For someone who can remember when “publishing” meant waiting a couple of weeks just to get proofs back from the press, this instant gratification is a beguiling idea. The problem, of course, is that the mind has not kept up with the technology. I found that I had to make a choice between attending the meeting (in the sense of paying attention, not just being present) and reporting on it. And if I had tried to regurgitate my undigested notes—well, the very thought of it is too disgusting to consider further.
So that’s my excuse for being 10 days late in filing these stories. In mathematics, however, once something is proved, it’s supposed to stay proved for at least a month, so I’m hoping there’s no harm done by the delay.
Some 1,750 talks and other presentations were listed in the program of the meetings. I was able to get to 30 of those talks, plus a couple of panel discussions and poster sessions—as well as the usual, raucus, all-night parties that gatherings of mathematicians are notorious for. The items that accompany this one cover just a handful of talks. My choices are not meant to represent the best of the program; they’re just some of the things that caught my attention.