The year 2013 has been marked for various mathematical activities under a wide umbrella of initiatives called the Mathematics of the Planet Earth (MPE) 2013, which will focus on mathematical research in areas of relevance to the various processes that affect the planet earth. The dynamics of the oceans and the atmosphere and the changes in the climate are of course the obvious topics that are very important for the life on planet earth and make use of mathematics in an essential way. In addition to these, a multitude of other topics are of relevance to MPE-2013, including the financial and economic systems, the energy production and utilization, spread of epidemics at the population level, ecology and genomics of species, just to name a few. A comprehensive and ever-evolving list of such topics can be found here.
To stimulate imagination on the many domains where mathematics plays a crucial role in planetary issues, the following four (non exhaustive) themes are proposed as part of MPE-2013:
(i) A planet to discover: oceans; meteorology and climate; mantle processes, natural resources, celestial mechanics
(ii) A planet supporting life: ecology, biodiversity, evolution
(iii) A planet organized by humans: political, economic, social and financial systems; organization of transport and communications networks; management of resources; energy
(iv) A planet at risk: climate change, sustainable development, epidemics; invasive species, natural disasters
The International Centre for Theoretical Sciences (ICTS) of the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) is a partner institute in the MPE initiative. The specific role that ICTS would play will be to liaise with the Indian scientific community, possibly in collaboration with researchers around the world, in order to conduct workshops, thematic programs, and conferences on topics that are aligned with the MPE initiative.
Another major theme of the MPE initiative will be public outreach to increase awareness of the importance and essential nature of mathematics in tackling these problems, and to bring out the relevance and usefulness of mathematics to a wider section of society than just those who use it professionally. One particular activity that is being actively pursued at the international level is a ”Competition for an open source exhibition of virtual modules.” Detailed information about this can be found here.
The outreach activities that we hope to plan in India will be in the form of mathematics exhibition(s), interactive sessions involving mathematical discussions and experiments for children, youth, and teachers, special guest lectures given by renowned mathematicians targeted, primarily, at the non-mathematics community. Such activities will provide the youth and children an opportunity to interact with some well known names in the field of mathematics, and will inspire them to study higher mathematics and its applications. There are also plans for an India-specific call for exhibits (and possibly a competition), in cooperation with the global competition for exhibits.