A bat in the office

If you have visited the ETH main building, you might have noticed birds that are sometimes lost within its great halls. Although it is not so obvious, bats are also often found there; so many, in fact, that the Stiftung Fledermausschutz has special contact people to intervene there when a lost bat is found.

This is what happened to me this morning.

The bat is an adult female of the Pipistrellus nathusii species; she was apparently dehydrated but is now being taken care of in the bat emergency room of the Zürich Zoo until it is warm enough for her to go back on her journeys…

(P.S. This is my last blog post; in addition to all other things taking too much of my time, the last WordPress update just makes the whole experience not worth going through; for instance, there should be a picture of the bat, but it doesn’t show for reasons that I’ve already lost too much time trying to understand; anybody interested in seeing it can email me.)

Clean-up before closure

I’ve cleaned-up my list of publications and unpublished notes, moving in the second page some preprints that are not going to be submitted for publication (as well as two notes that I had not yet put online).

On February 1st, I’ll start a period of being vice-chairman for two years and a half, then chairman of the department for two years, so that my other activities are unlikely to flourish for a long time, and similarly this blog will be updated even less regularly than before.

Der Zauberberg

Two days ago, in the evening, I finished reading “Der Zauberberg” in German. I had started in early June, a bit before the previous post, so it took about seven months. This is comparable to the time it took me to read Proust, but it is certainly the longest time I’ve spent reading (without long interruptions) a single work. Much of this reading was done in the tramway, using heavily the Leo app and it’s excellent English-German dictionary to get through the more philosophical parts (I was told by friends who saw me sometimes that I was particularly absorbed…)

And although I had claimed that I wouldn’t buy a second copy, I actually did get one (second hand, from a 1926 printing) to have one


where the French dialogue in the crucial Walpurgisnacht scene is not translated (in modern German editions, such as that of the GFKA, these parts are printed as in the original text within the main body of the novel, but a translation is appended at the end of the book). By the way, I learnt from the Kommentar that Thomas Mann wrote the French dialogue directly in French (not in German that he would later translate), but that they were re-read and corrected by a more fluent friend.

Elias Stein

I was very saddened to read on T. Tao’s blog of the death of Elias Stein. Although I did not know him personally, or even worked in the same area of mathematics, I felt a great admiration and respect for him. I remember browsing intently through some of his books, especially at the beginning of my PhD thesis, but also still in recent times, and especially the one (partly) about quasi-orthogonality. I tried to apply one of the statements I found there (“Cotlar’s Lemma”) to some cases of large-sieve inequalities. It didn’t work, but I remember that during a party at Fine Hall some time later, my advisor H. Iwaniec introduced me to Stein (this was my only personal encounter with him!) by saying jokingly that “Your lemma is not strong enough”.

I have always felt a great attraction to the type of harmonic analysis that I read about in those books, even if I don’t understand it. Maybe, one day, I will be able to know more…