Flygskam, Textbooks in Braille and More

This year’s JMM have come and gone, but many related posts are still available. Here are just a few that I recommend.

“To be or not to be there: Conferencing in the age of flygskam”

In this piece for the Graduate Student Blog, Aram Bingham wrote about why he didn’t attend this year’s JMM. He discusses the impacts of air travel to conferences on the environment and encourages mathematicians to consider alternative options, such as video conferences or “campaign[ing] for the construction of a carbon-neutral/negative conference center at the geographic/population center of the US (near the Nebraska-Kansas border, or somewhere in central Missouri, or somewhere else depending on how you measure), with connecting high-speed rail, to be used for all national scientific conferences.”

However, Bingham’s post isn’t advocating that mathematicians completely nix conference air travel, but, instead, consider carefully their conference travel decisions. “I’m not calling for any sort of a heroic abandonment of all air travel by the scientific community or advocating the use of sanctimonious hashtags (see #istayontheground),” he wrote. “I’m sure I will fly again for a conference, and probably even use a paper cup or two for coffee when I have forgotten my reusable mug. I just want to point out that the path of minimizing the consequences of our own actions is too tempting for a community that should be taking leadership, and that this path is made even easier by the fact that individualistic resource consumption and accumulation is still de rigeur in this country in general. Non-conformity might initially require a little bit of courage, but I think it’ll be a bit easier for the rest of society, and result in less political strife, if scientists act first,” he added.

World Premiere of ‘Secrets of the Surface'”

The film is about the life and achievements of Maryam Mirzakhani. “Following the screening was a Q&A moderated by Hélène Barcelo of MSRI, with panelists Ingrid Daubechies, Amie Wilkinson, Jayadev Athreya, Tatiana Toro, all mathematicians who knew Mirzakhani; also on the panel were Erica Klarreich, a math journalist who narrated the film, and George Csicsery, the director and producer,” wrote Leila Sloman, who attended the screening and discussion. She presents “an incomplete and slightly edited transcript of the panel.”

“Creating a math textbook accessible to the blind”

For this post on the JMM 2020 blog, Leila Sloman interviewed several mathematicians about their work on automating the process of converting math textbooks into Braille formats. Samantha Faria also interviewed the team behind the Math That Feels Good project.

“Bank of REU/Grad Fair Questions”

For the e-Mentoring Network in the Mathematical Sciences blog, undergraduate students Lucy Martinez and Eduardo Torres Davila compiled lists of recommended questions for students to ask while they evaluate whether a certain REU or graduate school might be the right fit for them.

“We attended the Joint Math Meetings (JMM) conference in Denver to present our research from our work at the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute Undergraduate Program,” Martinez and Torres Davila wrote. “At JMM, there was a fair of graduate schools and research experiences for undergraduate programs, which was attended by universities from all parts of the nation. At each booth, were university professors and current graduate students who could talk about their PhD program in the mathematical sciences…Although, we attended the fair to find out more about the programs offered, there were points in our conversations in which we were unsure what to ask. We quickly realized that if we had a list of questions prior to attending the conference, we could have been more prepared. We talked to Dr. Pamela E. Harris about our situation and she recommended that we go on a scavenger hunt for questions we could have asked!” Martinez and Torres Davila added.

As always, thanks for reading! If you want to reach me with ideas or suggestions, please leave a comment below or find me on Twitter (@writesRCrowell).

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