Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Topics in Optimal Transportation

Yours truly and Cédric Villani
Tonight I was lucky enough to encounter someone whom I admire very much; if not a personal hero then as close to one as there can be: Professor Cédric Villani, recipient of the 2010 Fields Medal for his work on the Boltzmann equation, and author of one of my all-time favourite books, Topics in Optimal Transportation. This book provides a beautiful exposition of the Kantorovich functional and Kantorovich duality, subjects that have profoundly influenced the direction of my research and my life. I was actually a little nervous, as the people I typically admire for their talents in one area turn out to be ... disappointing ... in other areas of life - Orson Scott Card comes to mind. Thankfully, Professor Villani turned out to be nothing short of charming, intelligent, and friendly in his public discussion with the French artist Bartabas on the subject of creativity, including interactions with the audience. He even gave a five-minute explanation of his work on the Boltzmann equation. As if that wasn’t cool enough, I think I also finally have the simple example I need to finish off the draft of my paper.

All in all, a good night.


Unknown said...

Awesome Norm!! How did you get to meet him? He is one of my heroes too.

Unknown said...

Hi Norm,
That's great. What was the context? Did you show him the SIAM paper?

Norm Ferns said...

Alas Prakash, it was not in a professional context but rather a general public discourse during which he was treated somewhat like a rock star! I was lucky enough to get one minute with him. If there is a next time, I'll bring the SIAM paper to shove in his face :P