Mathematical Sciences Research Institute

Museion: an evening of dining, music, lecture, discussion

Museion is named for the legendary institute at Ancient Alexandria, the hall of the Muses and the place of study of Archimedes, Eratosthenes, Hypatia, and Euclid. Museion recognizes donors at the Museion level to the Archimedes Society at Mathematical Sciences Research Institute.

MSRI serves to bring together the world's best mathematicians, academic institutions, post doctoral students, and corporations to further research and application of mathematics. MSRI also reaches out to the community to promote and encourage understanding of the mathematical sciences.

The first Museion convened in Berkeley on the evening of October 25, 2001, hosted by Archimedes Society chairman and MSRI trustee William R. Hearst, III. Nobel Laureate Donald A. Glaser gave a talk on "Mathematical Attempts to Understand the Brain" and Professor Robert Osserman gave a talk on "A Million Dollar Problem: Riemann and His Hypothesis." A duo violin concerto was performed by Bill Barbini and Kineko Okumura.

Click here for 17 Photographs of the Evening's Festivities.

The second Museion was hosted by MSRI trustee James H. & Marilyn Simons in their Manhattan flat overlooking Central Park on February 6, 2002. Professor Andrew Granville, the David C. Barrow Professor of Mathematics at the University of Georgia, gave a talk on "Primes' Possibilities and Einstein's Error" and Professor Charles S. Peskin, Professor of Mathematics and Neural Science at the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences, New York University, gave a talk on "Computer Simulation of the Beating Human Heart."

The third Museion was held in Berkeley on the evening of April 11, 2002, hosted by Archimedes Society chairman and MSRI trustee William R. Hearst, III. Professor Donald E. Knuth, Professor of The Art of Computer Programming, Emeritus at Stanford University and MSRI Trustee, gave a talk on "Mathematical Typography. and Nobel Laureate Professor Charles Townes, Professor in the Graduate School of Physics at University of California, Berkeley, and the inventor of the laser, gave a talk on "How Technology is Born of Science". A lively vocal performance was offered by Tim Krol and Julia Hunt Nielsen with piano accompaniment by Jonathan Alford.

Click here for 59 Photographs of the Evening's Festivities.

The fourth Museion celebrated the 20th Anniversary of the Institute and was convened on October 24, 2002. Special Champagne & Sparkling Water Receptions preceded and followed the dinner and lecture. Former MSRI trustee Sir Michael Atiyah, OM, FRS, FRSE gave a talk on "The Mystery of Spin". Sir Michael won the Fields Medal, Mathematics highest prize, in 1966. He was Master of Trinity College at Cambridge, President of the Royal Society, Director of the Newton Institute, and Savilian Professor of Geometry at Oxford University. The West Coast public announcement of MSRI.s $7.3 million capital campaign was made at the reception following dinner. A quartet (Jeff Fields, Bass; Antoine Garth, Second Tenor; Daniel Hutchings, First Tenor; and Tim Krol, Baritone) performed a program of English and Italian Madrigals, Romantic Partsongs, and English Folksongs.

Click here for 42 Photographs of the Evening's Festivities.

The fifth Museion was hosted by MSRI trustee James H. & Marilyn Simons in Manhattan on November 5, 2002. MSRI trustee Professor Myron S. Scholes, Frank E. Buck Professor of Finance Emeritus at Stanford University Graduate School, gave a talk on "Liquidity and Risk Management." The evening included a special celebration of the Institute's 20th Anniversary, and the East Coast public announcement of MSRI's $7.3 million capital campaign.

The sixth Museion was held at the home of trustee Ed and Rosemary Baker on April 24, 2003. Professor Persi Diaconis, the Mary V. Sunseri Professor of Statistics and Mathematics at Stanford University, gave a talk on "The Search for Randomness." The musical program was performed by William Barbini on Violin and Viola, Kineko Okumura on Violin, and Dmitriy Cogan on Piano. The evening included the announcement of the naming of the MSRI library for Austine McDonnell Hearst, mother of trustee William Hearst.

Click here for 26 Photographs of the Evening's Festivities.

The seventh Museion was hosted by MSRI trustee James H. & Marilyn Simons in Manhattan on October 20, 2003. Author and Professional Poker Player Andy Bellin gave a talk on "Poker and Math as They Apply to Life." The evening included an elegant dinner, a question and answer session about poker and mathematics, and a briefing on the Institute by David Eisenbud.

The eighth Museion was held at MSRI on October 23, 2003, and began with a particularly breathtaking sunset during the cocktail hour. Professor Yvan Saint-Aubin, Professor of the Departement de mathematiques et de statistique of University de Montreal, gave a talk on "The Sounds of Music." The musical program, the first movement of Brahms First Sonata for Cello and Piano, was performed by Heath Marlow on cello and Allison Lovejoy on piano. The evening included an Institute briefing for donors by David Eisenbud.

Click here for 26 Photographs of the Evening's Festivities.

The ninth Museion was held at MSRI on June 10, 2004, and followed the groundbreaking ceremony for MSRI's new building. Richard C. Atkinson, seventeenth president of the University of California, gave a talk on "College Admissions and the SAT." The musical program preceded dinner and was performed by Pete Muller at the piano. The evening included comments by David Eisenbud and Institute Trustee and Archimedes Chairman Will Hearst.

Click here for 27 Photographs of the Evening's Festivities.

The tenth Nuseion was held at the home of Museion members Lani and Richard Grinold on October 28, 2004. Professor Reviel Netz, Professor of Classics and Philosophy at Stanford University, gave a talk on "The News from Archimedes." The talk described his research restoring the once-lost Archimedes Palimpsest. The musical program also involved a great work once lost, "Bach's Suite V for Violoncello solo, BWV 1011 in C minor", which was performed by cellist Victoria Ehrlich. Martha Wasley later joined her on Piano. The evening included an elegant dinner, a dessert buffet, a question and answer session about the Palimpsest, and a briefing on the Institute by David Eisenbud.

Click here for 26 Photographs of the Evening's Festivities.

The eleventh Museion was hosted by MSRI trustee James H. & Marilyn Simons in Manhattan on December 8, 2004. Noted author, physicist and mathematician Brian Greene gave a talk on "The Fabric of the Cosmos." The evening included an elegant dinner, a lively question and answer session about String Theory and Einstein's theories, and an Institute briefing by Director David Eisenbud. A special toast was made by host Jim Simons in memory of his friend and colleague Shiing-Shen Chern, who was MSRI's co-founder and first director.

The twelfth Museion was hosted by MSRI trustee William R. Hearst on March 17, 2005. The reception was at his residence in the downtown San Francisco Four Seasons, and dinner was served in the hotel. The talk, "How to Beat Children at Their Own Games" was given by John Horton Conway. Professor Conway's delightful talk included the games of Hackenbush, Dots and Boxes, Sprouts and (its variant) Brussels Sprouts, and Museion members got some special tips on 3x3 Tic Tac Toe with three players. By the end of the evening we were all thoroughly convinced that children's games are not trivial! A Mozart piano trio, also brilliant, proved an apt counterpart. Martha Wasley on piano, Kineko Okumura on violin, William Barbini on viola, and Victoria Ehrlich on cello performed "Klavier Quartette K.493". A briefing for members was provided by Institute Director David Eisenbud, and Deputy Director Hugo Rossi, Special Projects Director Robert Osserman, and by Paul Zeitz who is organizing the San Francisco Math Circle.

Click here for 45 Photographs of the Evening's Festivities.

The thirteenth Museion was held at the home of Robert W. Felton, high in the Berkeley hills, on October 20, 2005. The reception and tour of the residence was preceded by an architect-led tour of the MSRI institute construction site. The talk was "The Puzzling Price of Corporate Default Risk (and the New Markets for Credit Derivatives)" given by Darrell Duffie, the James Irvin Miller Professor of Finance at The Graduate School of Business, Stanford University. A briefing for members was provided by Institute Director David Eisenbud, Deputy Director Hugo Rossi, and Special Projects Director Robert Osserman.

The fourteenth Museion was hosted by MSRI trustee James H. & Marilyn Simons in Manhattan on Wednesday, February 1, 2006. Darrell Duffie, The James Irvin Miller Professor of Finance at The Graduate School of Business, at Stanford University, gave a talk on The Puzzling Price of Corporate Default Risk (and the New Markets for Credit Derivatives). The evening included an elegant dinner, a lively question and answer session about Professor Duffie's findings, and an Institute briefing by Director David Eisenbud.

The fifteenth Museion was held at MSRI on Thursday, November 2, 2007, and followed the dedication of MSRI's newly expanded, renovated Austine McDonnell Hearst Library. Ken Ribet, Professor of Mathematics at the University of California, Berkley, gave a talk on "Modularity: Why is it a Hot Topic." The dedication preceded dinner and included a welcome and thanks to Will Hearst by Institute Director David Eisnebud, and musical program of classical guitar.

The sixteenth Museion was hosted by MSRI trustee James H. & Marilyn Simons in Manhattan on Wednesday, January 31, 2007. Isadore M. Singer, Institute Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a co-founder of the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute, gave a talk on "Changing Patterns in the Support of Science. The evening included an elegant dinner, a lively question and answer session about Professor Singer's fifty years in service to the White House, other federal councils, committees, and boards, and an Institute briefing by Director David Eisenbud. Paul Chern and May Chu, the children of MSRI's co-founder Shiing-Shen Chern, were also present, as was Alan Alda, whose efforts in support of science education were praised.

The seventeenth Museion was held at the home of MSRI trustee Ed and Rosemary Baker in Piedmont on Thursday, May 10, 2007. A pre-Museion talk was given by Julian Brooks, Curator of the Drawings Department of the J. Paul Getty Museum, which animated the Baker's collection of illustrations. Jonathan Berger, Associate Professor of Music at Stanford University and Co-Director of the Stanford Institute for Creativity and the Arts (SICA) and the University's Arts Initiative, gave a talk on "The Ghost of Johannes Brahms". He demonstrated how the mathematical technique wavelets has been used to denoise a recording thought to be of Brahms playing the First Hungarian Dance.

The evening included an elegant outdoor dinner, greeting by Ed Baker, a welcome by Will Hearst, and an announcement by Ed Baker of a $10 million gift from their fellow MSRI trustee Jim Simons. $5 million of the gift will endow the Eisenbud Professorship, in honor of David Eisenbud. David Eisenbud announced the appointment of his successor, the Institute's fifth director, Robert Bryant of Duke University. David led a champagne toast to Robert's appointment and success.

David Eisenbud's ten years of service as director were praised by Archimedes Society Chairman Will Hearst, and the guests gave David Eisenbud a standing ovation.

The eighteenth Museion was held at MSRI in Shiing-Shen Chern Hall on Thursday, November 8, 2007. Robert D. MacPherson, Professor, Institute for Advanced Study and member of the MSRI Scientific Advisory Committee, gave a talk on "How Crystals Grow Inside Solids".

Guests enjoyed a musical interlude performed by Shawnette Sulker, Soprano, and Ron Valentino, on Piano in the Simons Auditorium. They performed: "The Infinite Shining Heavens by R. Vaughan Williams: "Aprés un Rêve" (After a Dream) by Gabriel Fauré, "Säusle, liebe Myrthe" (Murmur Sweet Myrtle) by Richard Strauss, and "The Silver Aria" (from the Ballad of Baby Doe) by Douglas Moore.

The evening included an elegant dinner, greeting by Will Hearst and comments by Robert Bryant.

The nineteenth Museion was held at the home of MSRI trustee Jim and Marilyn Simons on Wednesday, December 12, 2007. The lecture, "On a book by Three of the Deepest Russian mathematicians of the Last Century: Mathematics: Its Content, Methods and Meaning" featured Dennis Sullivan, who holds a joint appointment as Professor at the State University of New York at Stony Brook and as Einstein Professor at the City University of New York (CUNY). Professor Sullivan's talk focused on the recent resolution of the Poincarè Conjecture, one of mathematics long-standing "million dollar" problems. It was resolved in the positive by Grigory Perelman of the Steklov Institute of Mathematics in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Museion host Jim Simons, who is collaborating with Sullivan in a mathematics research project, added an interesting series of remarks following the lecture. These served to put the conjecture and its resolution into a wider historical context and thereby to explain its importance for mathematics. In particular, he explained how, seemingly paradoxical, the corresponding conjecture about spaces of dimensions higher than three had turned out to be much easier to prove and he impressed upon the audience the complexity and power of Perelman's solution.

The twentieth Museion was held at MSRI in Shiing-Shen Chern Hall on Thursday, September 18, 2008. Ronald Graham, Irwin and Joan Jacobs Endowed Chair in Computer and Information Science and Chief Scientist of the California Institute for Telecommunication and Information Technology at the University of California, San Diego, gave a talk on "Is Complete Disorder Possible". Guests enjoyed a repeat musical interlude performed by Shawnette Sulker, Soprano, and Ron Valentino, on Piano in the Simons Auditorium. They performed: "Gretchen am Spinnrade" by Schubert, "The Infinite Shining Heavens" by Vaughan Williams, "Queen of the Night's Vengeance Aria - Die Zauberflote" by Mozart, "Riding the Elevator Into the Sky" by David Conte, "Sea Snatch" by Barber and "Ivan Sergeich - Tsarskaya Nevesta" by Rimsky-Korsakov. The evening included an elegant dinner, greeting by Will Hearst, and comments by Robert Bryant.

The twenty-first Museion was held at the home of MSRI trustee Jim and Marilyn Simons on Wednesday, January 21, 2009. Roger W. Ferguson, Jr. President and Chief Executive Officer, TIAA-CREF gave a talk on "Financial Turbulence and Regulatory Reform". Guests enjoyed a special meal, comments by Mr. Simons and a spirited question and answer period.

The twenty-second Museion was held at MSRI in Shiing-Shen Chern Hall on Thursday, June 4, 2009. Inez Fung, Professor of Atmospheric Science at the University of California, Berkeley gave a talk on "Climate Chaos". Guests enjoyed a riveting performance by pianist Jared Redmond, whose program included: Johann Sebastian Bach’s Prelude and Fugue" in G minor, WTC II, Maurice Ravel’s "Ondine" (from "Gaspard de la Nuit"), and Alexander Scriabin’s 2nd Sonata "Sonata-Fantaisie" in G minor, op.19, I. Andante, II. Presto. Director Robert Bryant gave a briefing on the Institute’s activities and premiered the new MSRI film "On Mathematical Grounds" by George Csicsery.

On October 22, we celebrated our 23rd Museion dinner and lecture at the lovely home of former director and current trustee David and Monika Eisenbud's home

The evening began with a reception at sunset over San Francisco Bay and the delightful company of many friends. We all entered the house for insightful talks by Sandford Grossman and Phillip Griffiths on "Managing Risk in a Crisis-Prone World". Sandy, who is joining our Board of Trustees next year, is the founder and CEO of Quantitative Financial Strategies and is a world-renowned economist specializing in quantitative finance, and Phillip, who will become the chair of our Board next year, is an emeritus professor of mathematics at the Institute for Advanced Study and is known for his work in promoting the development of science and mathematics in the developing world.

Sandy's assessment of the underlying causes of the current world economic crisis was that it was not the fault of mathematical finance theory so much as the people who apply it. He reviewed for us some of the basic formulas for determining risk and noted that these formulas have worked for him for over 20 years. Then he reviewed some of the mistakes that are made in their application, including the inability to reliably price assets, inadequate diversification of risk, and the effects of asymmetric compensation systems on employees in finance, especially those that reward return but do not adequately discourage taking on significant risks of negative results.

Phillip traced the beginnings of financial theory back to the Greeks of the fifth century BCE, described the influence and elegance of the formulas offered by Black, Scholes and Merton, and also addressed how misapplication of these formulas had caused many problems. He, too, discussed the problems of the illusion of diversity, citing, as an example, Long Term Capital Management's investment in seemingly unrelated British bonds and Indonesian securities, a strategy that was envied and copied so widely that, when crisis came, the heavy investment in both by so many investors caused a correlation that brought them both down simultaneously in a major sell-off.

For further reading on the subject, Phillip and Sandy recommended a book New Directions for Understanding Systemic Risk (National Academies Press) that was distributed at the Museion.

Following those talks, mother and daughter musicians Irene Schreier, piano, and Monica Scott, cello, performed the Brahms. first Sonata for Piano and Violoncello in E minor, op. 38. It was a lovely performance, after which we returned outside to enjoy dinner and conversation under a beautiful California October sky.

On January 27, 2010, we celebrated our 24th Museion dinner and lecture and our 9th at the lovely home of Marilyn and Jim Simons. The evening began with a reception in the Simons. living room, with a view of Central Park and the delightful company of many friends. We were called to the dining room, where, after some welcoming and supportive words from Jim Simons, Director Robert Bryant gave an update on the state of the Institute. The 42 guests in attendance then enjoyed a delectable meal of ravioli, rack and loin of lamb, and wild Alaskan salmon, followed by a refreshing desert made from blood oranges.

Following dinner, the group heard a fascinating talk by a truly gifted researcher and expositor, Andrei Okounkov, who spoke on "Mazy Interfaces". A Professor of Mathematics at Princeton University, he has received many honors for his research, including the European Mathematics Society Prize in 2004 and the Fields Medal in 2006. Now serving as a member of MSRI's Scientific Advisory Committee, Andrei is slated to become its co-chair later this year and will serve as an organizer of MSRI's much-anticipated Spring 2012 program, Random Spatial Processes.

Andrei explained that, by 'mazy interfaces', he meant the kind of rough boundaries that we see in the actual physical world around us, illustrating this with photographs of a jagged coastline, percolation of liquids through porous material, and polarization cells in magnets. He explained how the currently developing mathematics of random spatial processes gives us insight into these features of the physical world and, at the same time, has spurred the development of some very beautiful new mathematics. His talk was partly a tribute to Oded Schramm, whose untimely death in 2008, deprived this young field of one of its most creative innovators. Using a wonderfully clear and elegant presentation style, Andrei managed to convey why mathematicians find the theory of the Schramm-Loewner Evolution so profoundly beautiful and gave the audience a new appreciation for the underlying unity of mathematics and its power to illuminate our understanding of the physical world. His vivid description of the underlying principles and his energy and enthusiasm were greatly appreciated by the guests, whether they were mathematicians or not. It was a great finish to a wonderful evening.

Our May 13 event was our 25th Museion and was held at Kathleen Brown’s home at One Maybeck Twin Drive. Kathy’s home was designed by Bernard Maybeck, who was born in New York City, studied at the École des Beaux Arts in Paris, and served on the Berkeley faculty as a professor of engineering and drawing. Maybeck is famous for many projects including the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco and as a mentor to Julia Morgan and others. The cottage is surrounded by equally impressive gardens, tours of which were given by Kathy and her partner, Halliday Dresser. The Adaiha MacAdam-Somer trio, stationed on the roof, played a delightful selection of trio arrangements of classical pieces as we talked and toured in the gardens.

After dinner, Robin Hartshorne gave a talk entitled “Was Pythagoras Chinese?—or Babylonian? The talk was inspired by the work done by Robin and David Mumford in preparation for the UC Berkeley class they just co-taught entitled “A Cross-Cultural History of Mathematics.” (David had been visiting UC Berkeley as this year’s Chern Professor.) Robin discussed the evidence modern scholarship has uncovered of non-western understandings of the Pythagorean Theorem in ancient China, India, and Babylon. While these cultures did not have the Greek notion of proof one finds in Euclid, Robin gave examples of clay tablets and ancient manuscripts that showed that these cultures had an astonishingly advanced understanding of the Pythagorean Theorem and Pythagorean triples.

Robin’s and David’s course used many books as source material, four of which Robin recommended to the audience. These books are:

A History of Chinese Mathematics, by Jean-Claude Martzloff,

Episodes in the Mathematics of Medieval Islam, by J. L. Berggren,

The Exact Sciences in Antiquity, by O. Neugebauer, and

Mathematics in India, by Kim Plofker

Click here for Photographs of the Evening's Festivities.

The October 7, 2010 Museion, our 26th, was held at MSRI's Chern Hall on a beautiful Indian summer evening in Berkeley. Our group of about 30 enjoyed wine and appetizers outside on the Strauch Auditorium Outlook and then came inside to watch the sunset and enjoy a buffet dinner and lively conversation. The Adaiha MacAdam-Somer trio played a delightful selection of trio arrangements of classical pieces as we talked. This is the second time this group has entertained us, and it was all the more special this time because the group's flautist was the evening's speaker's daughter, Anita Uhlmann.

After dinner, MSRI Director Robert Bryant briefed the members on the exciting activity that MSRI is experiencing in its programs this fall, distinguished visitors that MSRI is currently hosting. Robert also shared a report on the vibrant start that our math circle programs have had this fall and the plans for the Chern Centennial celebrations late in 2011.

Gunther Uhlmann was the speaker. He is an organizer for the Inverse Problems and Applications program at MSRI, and he holds the Walker Family Endowed Professorship in Mathematics at the University of Washington in Seattle, as well as the Excellence in Teaching Chair in Mathematics at the University of California, Irvine. In the preamble to his engaging talk, Gunther recalled that his visit to MSRI in 1982 (the Institute's first year) was a defining moment in his career. Specifically, it was at that program that he encountered his first inverse problems, the subject that would become his main research area.

In his talk, Inverse Problems and Harry Potter's Cloak, Gunther illustrated the basic inverse problem using examples from nature. Dolphins, bats, and certain fish all make deductions about their environment by emitting some sort of waves and then observing the results after those waves have interacted with the environment. (By contrast, in a 'forward' problem, one uses knowledge of the environment to make deductions about the resulting waves.)

He then explained how objects can be hidden or 'cloaked' by effectively turning this principle against itself. A 'cloak' consisting of a negative-index-of-refraction 'meta-material' can be arranged to conduct waves around an object, returning the waves to their undisturbed state outside the cloak and thus rendering the object (and cloak) invisible to an observer.

It was a fascinating presentation, and the audience was thoroughly engaged, with the discussion period going on for some time afterwards. Dessert was delicious too!