Is the Abstract Mathematics of Topology Applicable to the Real World?

Topology is the only major branch of modern mathematics that wasn't anticipated by the ancient mathematicians. Throughout most of its history, topology has been regarded as strictly abstract mathematics, without applications. However, illustrating Wigner's principle of "the unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics in the natural sciences", topology is now beginning to come up in our understanding of many different real world phenomena.

In this minisymposium, Robert MacPherson speaks on "What is Topology?", Randall Kamien discusses topology and liquid crystals (like those in your computer display), and Raul Rabadan describes how topology modifies our understanding of the evolutionary "Tree of Life". Following the presentation, Robbert Dijkgraaf moderates a panel discussion on topology.



Hermann Weyl Professor, School of Mathematics; University of Pennsylvania; Columbia University


Robert D. MacPherson; Randall D. Kamien; Raúl Rabadán