Archive for August 23rd, 2010

ICM2010 — rest of day one

August 23, 2010

As I write this I'm sitting in the Rajiv Gandhi international Aiport waiting for a flight to Dubai. The ICM lasts till Friday, but for me it is over: with a son of two and a half, there are limits to how long it is reasonable to be away, and the marginal utility of the ICM has dipped below the marginal cost of staying away (or rather, that is how I judged it in advance). Actually, today (Monday the 23rd) is the half-way point and is a free day. Most of the delegates, to judge from the people I've spoken to, are taking the opportunity to go on ICM-organized tours. It is pretty tantalizing not to be doing that myself, but I leave India with a huge affection for the country and a strong sense that I'll be back.

Listening to five laudationes in a row is pretty gruelling — as I know from having done it five times now. After they were over, Assaf Naor asked whether I wanted to go and get a cup of coffee somewhere, or whether I would be listening to the talk by Varadhan, a recent Abel prize winner. To make my decision easier, he explained that he himself was skipping the talk only because he had heard it before, and he knew that it was excellent. I hesitated, and in the end decided that self-preservation was in order, a principle that I continued to adopt later. By that I mean that if you go to every talk that has a good chance of being superb, plus every talk that is sufficiently noteworthy that you don't want to miss it even if it is terrible, then you end up utterly exhausted. Because the laudationes had started late, there was very little break between them and the beginning of Varadhan's talk, and I just couldn't face three and half hours, or whatever it would have been, of continuous talk. The difference between this ICM and previous ICMs is that these little decisions of mine, which I normally like to make rather discreetly (which is particularly easy for parallel sessions, because you might always be at a different talk), are now completely public. But I think I'm ready to live with this.