TEDx Ratan

When everyone piled into the theatre at 9:45, the Co-Chairs Melissa Lee and Taruna Kaur had some short words about the conference. They then introduced the MC, Arda Ocal, who reappeared in between each talk and performance to provide puns, quips, an anecdote and a tip on how to properly give high-fives. There were also deliberate attempts at getting everyone to share photos on social media, which seemed cringey at first and downright strange after Truman Tang’s talk about “The Dangers of Social Validation”.

During breaks the delegates would hang around in the Hagey Hall cafeteria. Some of the performers would play here instead of having a slot on stage among the speakers. Each sponsor had a booth explaining the work they were doing, in the hope of attracting customers and talent. Additionally there were some delicious snacks: the shawarma bowls and little brownies were quite a lot better than the catering at any employer info session.

David Swart had a very cool, and very sweet, talk about the intersection of mathematics and art. It was, in short, about fun ways of projecting a three dimensional image onto a two dimensional surface. The most obvious starting point (after talking about the joys of eating and peeling oranges) was maps. Rather than simply gauge cartographic projections for their utility, he focused on how fun and interesting they looked. He even presented in detail some of the more “novelty” projections, such as the heart-shaped Werner projection (useful to send an important message: “You mean the world to me.”). Swart went on to show how panoramic photos could be presented on projections as well: in some cases the original photo ended up taking a backseat to the pinwheel clusters and exploding basketball shapes that they were being presented on.

The point of the talk was that mathematics did not always need to be viewed with “utilitarian goggles”: it could also be a tool for creative beauty. There was not a sense of dire urgency and the only agenda to push was to enjoy oneself. Unfortunately it’s a bit hard for my words to do this talk justice: you had to see it to believe it.



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