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All Hail the distinguished achievement professor!

Mr. Quomodocumque is probably too modest to mention it himself, so let me be the first mathematics blogger to congratulate Jordan Ellenberg on becoming a Vilas Distinguished Achievement Professor! Which hopefully comes with a lot of free time to visit Switzerland…

On diplomats

Quizz: who wrote

Il a publié il y a deux ans (…) un ouvrage relatif au sentiment de l’Infini sur la rive occidentale du lac Victoria-Nyanza et cette année un opuscule moins important, mais conduit d’une plume alerte, parfois même acérée, sur le fusil à répétition dans l’armée bulgare, qui l’ont mis tout à fait hors de pair.

or, in translation:

He has published two years ago (…) a book concerning the feeling of Infinity on the occidental shore of the Victoria-Nyanza lake, and this year another booklet, less important but written with a lively, and even piercing, pen, on the repeating rifle in the bulgarian army, which have made him rather peerless.

This reminds of the curiously little-known hilarious “Antrobus stories” of diplomatic mishaps:

It was during one of those long unaccountable huffs between ourselves and the Italians. You know the obscure vendettas which break out between Missions? Often they linger on long after the people who threw the first knife have been posted away. I have no idea how this huff arose. I simply inherited it from bygone dips whose bones were now dust. It was in full swing when I arrived — everyone applying freezing-mixture to the Italians and getting the Retort Direct in exchange. (…) So while bows were still exchanged for protocol reasons they were only, so to speak, from above the waist. A mere contortion of the dickey, if you take me, as a tribute to manners. A slight Inclination, accompanied by a moue. Savage work, old lad, savage work!

(from “The game’s the thing”, where a soccer game between the English and Italian embassies rather degenerates.)

More things of the day(s)

(1) Today’s Word of The Day in the OED: afanc, which we learn is

In Welsh mythology: an aquatic monster. Also: an otter or beaver identified as such a monster.

Maybe the Welsh otters, like their rugbymen, are particularly fierce?

(2) Yesterday’s Google doodle, in Switzerland at least, celebrated the 57th birthday of Gaston Lagaffe

Gaston

I’ve heard that Gaston

Billard

Billard

is mostly unknown to the US or English, leaving many people with no reaction to the mention of the contrats de Mesmaeker

Contrats

Contrats

or to the interjection Rogntudju!.

Rogntudju

This lack of enlightenment is a clear illustration of the superiority of the continental mind.

The many ways of affineness

Last Saturday, the OED Word of the Day was affineur. Now, I know very well what an affineur is (my favorite is Jean d’Alos, and I especially like his renowned Tome de Bordeaux, the excellence of which can probably be confirmed by Mr. Quomodocumque), but for a few seconds I had in mind the picture of a fearsome algebraic geometer busily transforming all projective varieties into affine ones.

I looked at the adjacent words in the OED; there is quite a list of them involving affine-ness in some way (listed here with dates of first use, as recorded in the OED); actually, affineness is not in the list:

  • affinage 1656
  • affinal 1609
  • affine 1509
  • affine v 1473
  • affined 1586, 1907
  • affineur 1976
  • affining 1606
  • affinitative 1855
  • affinitatively 1825
  • affinition 1824
  • affinitive 1579
  • affinity 1325

It is interesting to think of an algebraico-geometric meaning for each of them (especially the tongue twister affinitatively, and affinition)…

Conferences

Here are two forthcoming conferences that I am co-organizing with Philippe Michel this year:

(1) Quite soon, the traditional Number Theory Days (the eleventh edition of this yearly two-day meeting that alternates between EPF Zürich and ETH Lausanne), will be held in Zürich on March 7 and 8; the web page is available, with the schedule and the titles of the talks; the speakers this year are Raf Cluckers (who is also giving a Nachdiplomvorlesung at FIM on the topic of motivic integration and applications), Lillian Pierce, Trevor Wooley, Tamar Ziegler and (Tamar is probably happily surprised not to come last in alphabetical order!) David Zywina.
Anyone interested in participating should send an email to Mrs Waldburger as soon as possible (see the web page for the address).

(2) In July, intersecting neatly the last stages of the soccer world cup, and beginning in the middle of a week to avoid (thanks to some fancy footwork) starting on the 14th of July, we organize a summer school on analytic number theory at I.H.É.S; people interested in participating should follow the instructions on the web site. The detailed programme will soon be available.