The Mathematics Community Unites to Focus on Global Issues

The International Mathematics of Planet Earth 2013 (MPE2013) initiative was formally launched today at the Winter Meeting of the Canadian Mathematical Society (CMS). In the coming year, mathematical institutes and research networks across Canada and around the world will focus on problems ranging from the control of epidemics, future of fisheries, and protection of biodiversity to climate change.


“Mathematics touches every aspect of our lives and underpins the science that helps us understand how everything around us works”, noted Christiane Rousseau, Vice-President of the International Mathematical Union and former president of the CMS. Rousseau, a professor of mathematics at the University of Montreal, had the idea of organizing a special year back in 2009 when she was Director of Centre de Recherches Mathématiques (CRM). She brought North American institutes on board before reaching out across the globe. “My dream is now shared by so many scientists around the world that MPE2013 is developing on its own. This unprecedented collaboration will last past 2013. But time is pressing for the planet and mathematicians have to get more involved.” “Mathematicians set up sophisticated models, that can be dynamical, differential or probabilistic, that usually rely on hundreds of year of fundamental research and, in collaboration with researchers from other fields, they adapt them to make predictions et to simulate control strategies,” said François Lalonde, Director of the CRM. “MPE2013 is a wonderful opportunity to reinforce our collaborations with our Quebec, Canadian and international partners. “

Under the patronage of UNESCO, the MPE initiative brings together over 100 scientific societies, universities, research institutes, and foundations from around the world to research fundamental questions about planet Earth, nurture a better understanding of global issues, and help inform the public about the essential mathematics of the challenges facing our planet. The year-long MPE initiative is expected to develop the mathematics that is fundamental to the understanding of the dynamic processes that sustain our planet earth.  Whether dealing with the geophysical issues of our earth, the atmospheric issues of our weather, the biological issues of our species, or our human everyday issues, it is the mathematics that underpins our understanding and, in turn, our advancement.  The Director-General of UNESCO, Irena Bokova, said, “UNESCO strongly supports this extraordinary collaboration of mathematicians around the world to advance research on fundamental questions about planet Earth, to nurture a better understanding of global issues, to help inform the public, and to enrich the school curriculum about the essential role of mathematics in the challenges facing our planet.”

“By focusing on the role mathematical sciences play on our Earth, we will be able to encourage research that will help address the issues that affect us all,” Rousseau said. “That is why the MPE 2013 initiative will highlight and showcase the contribution mathematics makes to the decisions surrounding the critical issues we face globally.”

The planned activities at the Canadian launch include:

·         A panel discussion “Que peuvent faire les mathématiques pour la planète?” chaired by Pierre Chastenay and organized by the CMS, the CRM and the RCM2;

·         Two public talks: “Une longue histoire: la planète Terre et les mathématiques” by Ivar Ekeland (Paris-Dauphine and UBC), and “The Complex Challenge of Sustainability” by Doyne Farmer (Oxford);

·         Six lectures for CEGEP professors on December 8,

·         Plenary scientific lectures, “The Foundations of Probability and Statistics with Black Swans” by Graciela Chichilnisky (Columbia), “Evolution of Cooperation” by Martin Nowak (Harvard), and “The Dynamics of Ocean Waves” by Catherine Sulem (Toronto);

·         And six special sessions, “Celestial Mechanics”, “Ecological Dynamics under Temporal Variation”, “Epidemiology - Genomics”, “Epidemiology – Infectious Diseases”, “Operations Research” and  “Probability and Biology”.

In 2013, the following activities are also planned for MPE2013:

·         A thematic program on Biodiversity and Evolution in the Fall of 2013 at CRM;

·         A national program on Models and Methods in Epidemiology, Ecology and Public Health involving all the Canadian partners AARMS, BIRS, CRM, Fields, MPrime et PIMS;

·         Public talk by Nilima Nigan (Simon Fraser), “The mathematics of Light and Sound”, in Montreal, February 15, 2013;

·         Public talk by Paul Embrechts (Zürich), “Les ponts de Königsberg, les digues de Hollande et la chute de Wall Street”, in Montreal, May 10, 2013 within the 24 hours of science event;

·         Public talk by Florin Diacu (Victoria),  “La prévision des grandes catastrophes”, in Montreal, September 25, 2013;

·         Public talk by Christiane Rousseau (U. of Montreal), “Les mathématiques de la planète Terre”, in Quebec, November 7, 2013;

·         A special issue of Accromath intended for high school students;

·         The 2013 meetings of the Association mathématique du Québec (AMQ) and of the Groupes des responsables en mathématiques du secondaire (GRMS) will focus on the MPE 2013 theme.

·         Seminars and colloquiums in different research centers in mathematics in Montreal: CIRANO, CIRRELT, CRM, GERAD.


Quebec organizers:

Christiane Rousseau, MPE2013 Coordinator (CRM) [+1 (514) 915-6081]

Luc Vinet, Director MPE2013 Canada Program Launch (CRM) [+1 (514) 343-6111, ext. 51733]

Jacques Hurtubise, Coordinator MPE2013 Canada Lecture Series (CMS) [+1 (514) 398-3816]

François Lalonde, Directeur, Centre de recherches mathématiques (CRM) [+1 (514) 343-7501]