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The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine have initiated a project on “Illustrating the Impact of the Mathematical Sciences“, in which various media will be produced to showcase how mathematics impacts the modern world.  (I am serving on the committee for creating this media, which has been an interesting experience; the first time for instance that I have had to seriously interact with graphic designers.)  One of the first products is a “webinar” series on the ten topics our committee have chosen to focus on, that is currently running weekly on Tuesdays.  Last week I moderated the first such webinar, titled “From Solving to Seeing”, in which Profs. Gunther Uhlmann and Anna Gilbert presented ways in which inverse problems, compressed sensing, and other modern mathematical techniques have been used to obtain images (such as MRI images) that would not otherwise be accessible.  Next week I will moderate another webinar, titled “Abstract Geometry, Concrete Impact”, in which Profs. Katherine Stange and Jordan Ellenberg will discuss how modern abstract geometries are used in modern applications such as cryptography.  The full list of webinars and the latest information on the speakers can be found at this website.  (Past webinars can be viewed directly from the web site; live webinars require a (free) registration, and offer the ability to submit text questions to the speakers via the moderator.)

We are currently in the process of designing posters (and possibly even a more interactive online resource) for each of the ten topics listed in the webinars; hopefully these will be available in a few months.

This weekend I was in Washington, D.C., for the annual meeting of the National Academy of Sciences.   Among the various events at this meeting was an address to the Academy by President Obama this morning on several major science and education policy initiatives, including some already announced in the economic stimulus package and draft federal budget, and some carried over from the previous administration.   (I myself missed the address, though, as I had to return back to LA to teach.)  Among the initiatives stated were the creation of an Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy (ARPA-E), modeled on DARPA (and recommended by the NAS); a significant increase in funding to the NSF and related agencies (which was committed to by the Bush administration, but not yet implemented; this is distinct from the one-time funding from the stimulus package discussed in this previous post), leading in particular to a tripling in the number of NSF graduate research fellowships; and a “race to the top” fund administered by the Department of Education to provide incentives for states to improve their quality of maths and science education, among other goals.  Some of these initiatives may not survive the budgetary process, of course, but it does seem that there is both symbolic and substantive support for science and education at the federal level.

Here are the video, audio, and transcript of the talk.

[Update, Apr 28: Another event at the meeting is the announcement of the new membership of the Academy for 2009.  In mathematics, the new members include Alice Chang, Percy Deift, John Morgan, and Gilbert Strang; congratulations to all four, of course.]

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