Governor Huntsman tells mathematicians what should keep them awake
July 8, 2008
The last time Utah Governor Jon Huntsman, Jr. spoke to a crowd in Park City, he addressed mountain biking trails. Monday, he returned to Park City, this time to talk algebraic geometry.
Huntsman was one of the keynote speakers at the annual meeting of the Park City Mathematics Institute (PCMI) held at the Prospector Lodge from July 6 to July 26. Although this three-week session is their biggest event, PCMI also runs a year-round program development. The PCMI is an extension of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey and reaches out to educators. The program also caters to researchers and invites several mathematicians to attend as scholars in residence.
Hundreds of educators from countries around the world will use their time at the Prospector Lodge to solve problems collectively and develop their teaching skills. To that end, the hallways of the Prospector Lodge are riddled with chalk boards and dry erase boards all filled with mathematical scribbles. The problem, and theme of the conference, this year will be analytic and algebraic geometry. Educators will also focus specifically on mathematic knowledge for instruction.
Aside from their diversity of origin, attendees of the PCMI also teach a range of different ages from secondary school to university. They develop skills for teaching their students through classes and workshops held each weekday for the three weeks of the conference. Instructors also benefit from the proximity of researchers and the ability to work closely and frequently with their peers at the conference.
Thanks to his better judgment, Huntsman chose not to address mathematics at length with an audience of mathematicians, but rather to speak about the applications of math and where they might be needed in the future. "The big issues of the day that ought to keep you up at night," he said, include population growth, water, renewable energy and ultra-personalized medical care.
In the West, population growth and water resources are, of course, tied closely. Huntsman mentioned the distribution of water from the Colorado River, a system designed decades ago, as an example of growth outpacing water supply. He also mentioned severe shortages in Australia where some have been asked to take showers with timers.
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The challenge of health care, for Huntsman, lies in bringing the Human Genome Project to a personal level. A person with intimate knowledge of their own DNA could be better prepared for possible illnesses and other health complications throughout the course of their lives.
working together, he continued, mathematicians could provide or help pave the way for solutions to these issues with their work. For Huntsman, the key to success, he quoted a Chinese proverb in Chinese, is working together. "Remember that important word ‘collaboration,’" he said.
Huntsman concluded by speaking about the first time his daughter introduced him to the Google Earth program and how amazed she was that barriers and divisions disappeared as more and more of Utah populated the computer screen. Through a satellite’s eye "the fences don’t really matter," said Huntsman.