In 1873, Georg Cantor proved that there are different sizes of infinity. Cantor tried to answer the question by proposing the Continuum Hypothesis. A solution of sorts was found in 1963, but the answer—proof that there was no proof—raised questions about the foundations of mathematics. Most deemed that counting the infinite was beyond mathematical precision. Recently, progress has been made, and the Continuum Hypothesis might have a definite answer—true or false.
The World Science Festival’s annual salon series offers in-depth conversations with leading scientists, extending the discussion of the Festival’s premiere public programs to graduate students, postdocs, faculty and well-informed members of the general public.
Known as the “Math Guy” on National Public Radio and author of 30 books and over 80 published research articles, Keith Devlin is a recognized mathematician. In 2003, he was lauded by the California State Assembly for his “innovative work and longtime service in the field of mathematics and its relation to logic and linguistics.” Today, Devlin’s research focuses on designing information and reasoning systems for intelligence analysis, and utilizing different media to teach and communicate mathematics to diverse audiences. His other research interests include the theory of information, models of reasoning, applications of mathematical techniques in the study of communication, and mathematical cognition.
The co-founder and executive director of Stanford University’s H-STAR Institute, co-founder of Stanford’s Media X research network, and a senior researcher at CSLI, Devlin is also a World Economic Forum Fellow and a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Additionally, he is a recipient of the Pythagoras Prize, the Peano Prize, the Carl Sagan Award, and the Joint Policy Board for Mathematics Communications Award.
Photo credit: Juan Rodrigo
Joel David Hamkins conducts research in mathematical and philosophical logic, particularly set theory, with a focus on the mathematics and philosophy of the infinite. He has worked particularly with forcing and large cardinals, those strong axioms of infinity, and in the theory of infinitary computability, introducing (with A. Lewis and J. Kidder) the theory of infinite time Turing machines, as well as in the theory of infinitary utilitarianism and, more recently, infinite chess. His work on the infinitary automorphism tower problem lies at the intersection of group theory and set theory. Recently, he has been preoccupied with various mathematical and philosophical issues surrounding the set-theoretic multiverse, engaging with the emerging debate on pluralism in the philosophy of set theory, as well as the mathematical questions to which they lead, such as his work on the modal logic of forcing and set-theoretic geology. His permanent position is professor of mathematics, of philosophy, and of computer science at The City University of New York, at the Graduate Center of CUNY, and the College of Staten Island of CUNY.
Steven Strogatz is the Jacob Gould Schurman Professor of applied mathematics at Cornell University. He studied at Princeton, Cambridge, and Harvard and taught at MIT before moving to Cornell in 1994. A renowned teacher and one of the world’s most highly cited mathematicians, he has blogged about math for The New York Times and has been a frequent guest on RadioLab. His honors include a Presidential Young Investigator Award; MIT’s highest teaching prize; a lifetime achievement award for the communication of mathematics to the general public; and membership in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is the author of Nonlinear Dynamics and Chaos, Sync, and The Calculus of Friendship. His latest book is The Joy of x.
William Hugh Woodin is a set theorist at University of California, Berkeley. He has made many notable contributions to the theory of inner models and determinacy. His recent work on Ω-logic suggests an argument that the continuum hypothesis is false. A type of large cardinal, the Woodin cardinal, bears his name. He earned his Ph.D. from UC Berkeley in 1984 under Robert M. Solovay. His dissertation title was “Discontinuous Homomorphisms of C(Omega) and Set Theory”.