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Mathematical Sciences Research Institute

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Public Understanding of Mathematics

MSRI's public programs aim to make mathematics accessible and exciting to those outside the field, showcasing the beauty and importance of math to people of all ages and backgrounds. We do this through initiatives ranging from production of films for public television and internet viewers to nationwide festivals, annual awards, and Bay Area community programming.

Film & Video - National Events & Initiatives - Bay Area Programs - Calendar of Public Events

FILM & VIDEO PRODUCTION

Numberphile: MSRI sponsors YouTube's most popular informal math channel, with nearly 3 million subscribers and over 400 million views.

Tadashi's Toys: Tadashi Tokieda loves to share his toys: in this case, objects you can make in a matter of minutes at home, which illustrate principles of mathematics. Dr. Tokieda has partnered with journalist and filmmaker Brady Haran of Numberphile to demonstrate these tricky objects.

Navajo Math Circles (2016): Navajo students enter into a lively collaboration with mathematicians in after-school programs and a summer camp at Diné College in Arizona. Against the challenges of education on the Navajo Nation, the film highlights the connections between Navajo culture, natural beauty, and mathematics, and as well as the hopes of parents, students, and teachers for a brighter future. This film has been nationally broadcast on public television beginning in fall of 2016.

Counting from Infinity: Yitang Zhang and the Twin Prime Conjecture (2015): In April 2013, Yitang Zhang, a lecturer at the University of New Hampshire, submitted a paper to the Annals of Mathematics. Within weeks word spread-- a little-known mathematician had made an important breakthrough towards solving the Twin Prime Conjecture, an enormously challenging problem in Number Theory. This film has been nationally broadcast on public television beginning in spring of 2017.

Taking the Long View: The Life of Shiing-Shen Chern (2011): The biographical documentary follows the life of Shiing-shen Chern, a remarkable mathematician whose formidable mathematical contributions were matched by an approach and vision that helped build bridges between China and the West.

Secrets of the Surface: The Mathematical Vision of Maryam Mirzakhani (in production): This one-hour documentary film is about Maryam Mirzakhani, a brilliant mathematician and Muslim immigrant to the United States who became a superstar in her field. She was awarded a Fields Medal, one of the highest honors in mathematics, just a few years before her untimely death to cancer in 2018. The story of her life will be complemented with sections about Mirzakhani’s mathematical contributions, as explained by colleagues and illustrated with animated sequences. This film will preview at the 2020 Joint Mathematics Meetings in Denver in January 2020.

For additional video productions, visit the Film & Video page. For math lectures recorded at MSRI scientific workshops, visit the Video Archive.


NATIONAL INITIATIVES & EVENTS



NmflogoNational Math Festival: The National Math Festival brings together some of the most fascinating mathematicians of our time to inspire and challenge participants to see math in new and exciting ways. The 2019 National Math Festival took place May 4th at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in downtown Washington, DC, and at science museums around the country. The next National Math Festival will take place in 2021; for more information, subscribe to the National Math Festival email newsletter.

Congressional Briefings: MSRI and the American Mathematical Society (AMS) host two Congressional briefings on mathematical topics each year in Washington, D.C. to inform members of Congress and Congressional staff about new developments made possible through federal support of basic science research.

AMS/MSRI Math Circles Library: In the interest of fostering a greater awareness and appreciation of mathematics and its connections to other disciplines and everyday life, MSRI and the American Mathematical Society (AMS) publish the Mathematical Circles Library series as a service to young people, their parents and teachers, and the mathematics profession. The books come from several sources: translations of suitable books from Russian or Eastern European sources, books written in English for this audience, and practical books for and written by organizers of Math Circles.

National Association of Math Circles (NAMC): The National Association of Math Circles provides resources and support for Math Circles and other similar informal mathematics education programs, including professional development and mentoring programs.

Mathical Book Prize: Math is more than numbers and equations! The Mathical Book Prize aims to inspire a love of mathematics in the everyday world in children of all ages. Each year’s winners and honor books join a selective and ever-growing list of new and previously published fiction and non-fiction titles. Mathical titles are as varied as the intersection between literature and mathematics—they encompass picture books, novels, poetry collections, puzzle books, biographies, and more! Mathical is organized by MSRI in partnership with the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM), the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), the Children's Book Council (CBC), and the generous support of the Firedoll Foundation and the Patrick J. McGovern Foundation.

CME Group-MSRI Prize in Innovative Quantitative Applications: The CME Group-MSRI Prize recognizes an individual or a group for originality and innovation in the use of mathematical, statistical or computational methods for the study of the behavior of markets, and more broadly of economics. The prize recipient receives a commemorative bronze medallion and a cash award of $50,000, presented at a celebration held at the CME Group headquarters in Chicago. Many past Prize recipients have gone on to receive the Nobel Prize in Economics.

Guerilla Science: Soundscape Sculptures: Guerilla Science create events and installations to connect people with science in new ways, producing live experiences that entertain, inspire, challenge and amaze. MSRI has partnered with Guerilla Science to bring the Fire Organ – the mutant offspring of a Rubens’ tube and a traditional pipe organ – to music festivals and dance parties across the US and UK.


BAY AREA PROGRAMS & EVENTS


Learn more about upcoming Bay Area events by subscribing to MSRI's Public Announcements email newsletter.

Celebration of Mind: The Celebration of Mind uses puzzles, games, and magic to delight, instruct, and bring people together in a spirit of fun, both at annual gatherings and as a year-round repository of resources. As Martin Gardner said, you can learn more when you’re in a state of entrancement, and so around October 21st of every year, Celebration of Mind events all over the world share the legacy and many interests of this prolific, accessible American writer, who over a 50-year period introduced general audiences to many fascinating topics in mathematics and science. The date of MSRI's Celebration of Mind is typically announced in August of each year. The most recent event was held on Sunday, October 20, 2019.

Bay Area Math Olympiad (BAMO): Middle and high school students from throughout the Bay Area participate in the Bay Area Math Olympiad exam each February to try their hand at increasingly difficult mathematical problem solving and proofs. Following the exam scoring period, an award ceremony and family celebration for all participants is held at MSRI in March of each year.

Harmonic Series Concerts: MSRI hosts a series of free public concerts during our fall and spring programs, bringing in local and visiting musicians from a variety of genres to perform in the Simons Auditorium for the enjoyment of all. For concert news, subscribe to MSRI's Public Announcements email newsletter.

Art at MSRI: MSRI works with local artists and photographers to host exhibits of prints in our second floor common spaces, available to view by the public during regular building hours. MSRI is currently preparing a new exhibition, which will be open to the public beginning September 2019. Visitors are welcome to view exhibits during business hours (Monday-Friday, 8:30-5:00 PM). Artworks are located throughout the 2nd floor of the building. A special exhibit of posters from the "Remember Maryam Mirzakhani" exhibit is also on display in Simons Auditorium during business hours. Current exhibit (Fall 2019): Photographs of Natural Crystal from the Smale Collection, featuring photography by UC Berkeley Professor Emeritus of Mathematics Dr. Stephen Smale. A public reception will be held on Wednesday 10/30 from 5:30-7:30 pm to celebrate this exhibit.

MSRI at the Commonwealth Club: The Commonwealth Club of California is the nation's oldest and largest public affairs forum, bringing together its 20,000 members for more than 400 annual events on topics ranging across politics, culture, society and the economy. MSRI partners with the Club to host public programs featuring some of the world's most interesting mathematical scientists, including Fields Medalist Cédric Villani, world-renowned theoretical physicist Sir Roger Penrose, and mathematical magician Mark Mitton.

Not on the Test: The Pleasure and Uses of Mathematics Lecture Series: MSRI has partnered with Berkeley City College in downtown Berkeley to host a series of free public lectures on the math behind topics ranging from Pixar animation to internet voting and DNA manipulation. You can view recordings of many past presentations at the link above.