I’m going to go to the Renyi Institute, one of Budapest’s most important centers for pure mathematics, this morning. (I know how to have a good time.) We’re starting– have started, really– a new project on the future of science and technology, a kind of turbocharged, Web 2.0-ified version of the Delta Scan, and so I’m going to log a little time on the project by going over and talking to people there.
One of the things I’m really interested in is the big trend from Cold War brain drain– where world-class minds tended to gravitate from the Third World (or global periphery, or global South, or whatever you like to call it), to Europe and the U.S.– to brain circulation, where people tend to move back and forth between various countries.
Hungary has a pretty incredible tradition in pure mathematics, and the Renyi Institute is interesting to me for a couple reasons. First, I don’t know that much about Hungarian science, and I figure mathematics is as good a place as any to start learning.
Second, Renyi runs a school for foreign students in mathematics, and I’m curious to understand why undergraduates come to it. I think I know the answer, but you’d think that mathematics, of all fields of inquiry, would be place-independent. After all, math is the same everywhere. It’s all people standing in front of blackboards, or writing equations on pieces of paper. So why travel anywhere to do it? What’s that about? Essentially, the school is a case study in brain circulation– and conveniently for me, it’s one in which Americans go abroad, rather than the other way around.
So this morning I checked the directions on the Web site, got out my map of Budapest (99% of the time the free maps you can pick up at tourist information desks or in hotel lobbies are good enough for my purposes), and spent a sleepy minute looking around for it. Turns out it’s about 3 minutes’ walk from here.
So I’ve got a little more time to shower and get some breakfast than I expected, which is cool. I’m pretty smoky, and didn’t shower last night, as I got back from Tandem around midnight and was working on my end of cyberspace talk.
I’m now really excited about the talk, by the way. It’s not all the time you get to come up with a new way of explaining a subject you’ve been working on for a couple years, but I think I’ve done it, and that’s very satisfying. I’m going to get at least a chapter section out of it, plus an article in the conference proceedings. Mmmmm, c.v. lines…
[To the tune of Sarah Shannon, "I’ll Run Away," from the album "Sarah Shannon".]