In a Quaint German Town, Mathematicians Converge

You’d like Heidelberg.

I mean, maybe you wouldn’t. Do woodland landscapes enrage you? Are you repulsed by chocolatiers and scenic castles? Do you shudder at the thought of nibbling on a handmade sphere of marzipan and nougat cream?

If so, Heidelberg is not for you.


As for me, it’s pretty heavenly.

I’m here as an invited blogger to cover the fourth annual Heidelberg Laureate Forum. Huge thanks to the HLF team for inviting me—and to the year 2016 for making “invited blogger” my bizarre unearned reality.

The HLF is a meeting of minds. Those minds include:

  • 22 Laureates from the highest echelons mathematics and computer science, ranging from the “father of the internet” (Vincent Cerf) to the man who solved Fermat’s Last Theorem (Sir Andrew Wiles)


  • 200 Young Researchers, whose work spans every area of math and computer science, and who hail from 56 countries including Switzerland, Spain, Sweden, Sudan, Sri Lanka, South Korea, Slovakia, Singapore, South Africa, Serbia, and Saint Kitts & Nevis—and that’s just the S’s.


I’m here to watch, to listen—and to eat handmade spheres of marzipan and nougat cream.

The conference’s goal is a simple one: to build community. Today’s grand masters will share meals, conversations, and offhand wisdom with tomorrow’s research leaders.

The ideas that make up mathematics and computer science can thrive only when they spread freely from mind to mind—when private insights can grow into shared understandings. This conference is about keeping the ideas—and the German beer—flowing.


Over the next few days, I’ll be offering snapshots here and at the official HLF blog. Think of me as the self-appointed street caricaturist: I’ll offer goofy portraits of the researchers and their work, the problems they think about, the goals that motivate them.

I already love what’s happening in Heidelberg.

I think you will, too.

20 thoughts on “In a Quaint German Town, Mathematicians Converge

  1. “I’m here to watch, to listen—and to eat handmade spheres of marzipan and nougat cream.”

    You may have your priorities backwards 😉 but seriously, very cooool (and a great honor)!
    …which other math bloggers are there we might know?

    1. It’s mostly proper journalists around here! But you may know my fellow bloggers Gail Carmichael (from the realm of Computer Science) and Peter Woit (of Columbia University).

  2. Yeeeey Ben … deserve it …enjoy it …as far as I’m concerned you have succeeded where all before failed ….thanks to your blog at my ripe old age I now have a better understanding and actually enjoy Maths ….I think it’s the bad drawings that clinched it:)

      1. Well …often folk seem to be either pragmatic or creative thinkers and never the twain shall meet …or should I say have difficulties with communication across the divide ….not many manage to bridge that gap but I reckon you pretty much crack it …with humour too 🙂

  3. Ben, this is fabulous. Have fun and enjoy every nougat. Cousin Marcie Frankel in Buffalo

    Sent from my iPad


  4. OOOhhh so cool! I love reading your blog, especially after you introduced me to Ultimate tic tac toe! I hope you enjoy Heidelberg, my favorite burger place when I’m there is the ironically named “Die Kuh die lacht” the cow laughs in the Stadtmitte. There is a bakery that specializes in “Snowballs” a German baked good that’s originally from the Rotheburg area.

  5. Heidelberg’s lovely and it sounds like you’re having fun 🙂 If you have time, you could look at the Christmas museum/shop (in town) and the apothecary museum (in the castle).

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