‘Zero problem’ in Van?

‘Zero problem’ in Van?

Betül Tanbay
‘Zero problem’ in Van Maybe mathematicians know more than the politicians that zero is not an easy number. They do not claim to solve all problems, but they definitely are eager to get together and talk about problems.

Under the auspices of the European Mathematical Society, the mathematical societies of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran, Russia and Turkey came together, to create the Caucasian Mathematical Conference (CMC) project and to get to know each other, share their work, research and results, and jointly navigate to new areas of research in mathematics.

The first Caucasian Mathematical Conference took place in 2014 in Tbilisi. At the conference dinner, mathematicians from Azerbaijan, Armenia and Turkey joined each other to perform the famous Caucasian dances: living together is not such an impossible task! We can do mathematics, we can eat, drink and dance!!

The first CMC was certainly not the center of public attention. The world was busy with the NATO Summit that was held in Wales the same week. Mathematics conferences and political summits are really different in essence. The goal of the summit was to provide “common security, prosperity and values,” to come up with solutions to social and political nodes. In front of the public, rulers did not drop the words “freedom,” “human rights,” “democracy” and “peace” from their mouths. Meanwhile, CMC shareholders made no political nor hypocritical promises but decided to have the second conference in 2016 in Turkey, and chose the Yüzüncü Yıl University in Van as the location, a meaningful barycenter for all the countries involved.

The events of summer 2016 obliged the organizers to postpone CMC-II to this August. The meeting was held from Aug. 22-24 with almost 200 participants from all countries. Can mathematical peace set an example to political peace?

Meanwhile, no NATO summit and no European Union summit found solutions to nodes as promised, because the real decisions are taken behind the doors. We had to witness ugly negotiations around millions of people who have lost their homes. People leaving their land…is this the destiny of this region? 

What politicians discuss in meeting rooms is secret. What mathematicians discuss in meeting rooms is not secret but not easily communicable to the general public. Nevertheless, the fact that they set a “good example” by working together, overcoming the burden of borders and nationalities, generating positive energy in an atmosphere where the priority is the good of humanity and science deserves to become common knowledge.

Betül Tanbay is the first female president of the Turkish Mathematical Society. She is also a professor at the Mathematics Department of Boğaziçi University.