Past Kinderseminar

26 January 2011
Many problems in computer science can be modelled as metric spaces, whereas for mathematicians they are more likely to appear as the opening question of a second year examination. However, recent interesting results on the geometry of finite metric spaces have led to a rethink of this position. I will describe some of the work done and some (hopefully) interesting and difficult open questions in the area.
1 December 2010
Jason Semeraro
Given a block, b, of a finite group, Alperin's weight conjecture predicts a miraculous equality between the number of isomorphism classes of simple b-modules and the number of G-orbits of b-weights. Radha Kessar showed that the latter can be written in terms of the fusion system of the block and Markus Linckelmann has computed it as an Euler characteristic of a certain space (provided certain conditions hold). We discuss these reformulations and give some examples.
27 October 2010
Richard Williamson

From a categorical point of view, the standard Zermelo-Frankel set theoretic approach to the foundations of mathematics is fundamentally deficient: it is based on the notion of equality of objects in a set. Equalities between objects are not preserved by equivalences of categories, and thus the notion of equality is 'incorrect' in category theory. It should be replaced by the notion of 'isomorphism'.

Moving higher up the categorical ladder, the notion of isomorphism between objects is 'incorrect' from the point of view of 2-category, and should be replaced by the notion of 'equivalence'...

Recently, people have started to take seriously the idea that one should be less dogmatic about working with set-theoretic axiomatisiations of mathematics, and adopt the more fluid point of view that different foundations of mathematics might be better suited to different areas of mathematics. In particular, there are currently serious attempts to develop foundations for mathematics built on homotopy types, or, in another language, ∞-groupoids.

An (∞,1)-topos should admit an internal 'homotopical logic', just as an ordinary (1-)topos admits an internal logic modelling set theory.

It turns out that formalising such a logic is rather closely related to the problem of finding good foundations for 'intensional dependent type theory' in theoretical computer science/logic. This is sometimes referred to as the attempt to construct a 'homotopy lambda calculus'.

It is expected that a homotopy theoretic formalisation of the foundations of mathematics would be of genuine practical significance to the average mathematician!

In this talk we will give an introduction to these ideas, and to the recent work of Vladimir Voevodsky and others in this area.

13 October 2010
David Craven

In this talk we will survey some aspects of social choice theory: in particular, various impossibility theorems about voting systems and strategies. We begin with the famous Arrow's impossibility theorem -- proving the non-existence of a 'fair' voting system -- before moving on to later developments, such as the Gibbard–Satterthwaite theorem, which states that all 'reasonable' voting systems are subject to tactical voting.

Given time, we will study extensions of impossibility theorems to micro-economic situations, and common strategies in game theory given the non-existence of optimal solutions.