The garden of forking paths

Reading a sentence like this about a friend, also a colleague three doors down the corridor, written by someone I do not know, in a blog devoted to interpretation “with-and-beyond Novalis” gives me hope for many good things:

I have no hesitation in saying that Fernando Zalamea’s book Synthetic Philosophy of Contemporary Mathematics is the most important one today in the field of philosophy of mathematics — not so much for its uniquely Goethean discoveries and sheaf theory — but for its explicit call to dialogue and exploration of the wild heart of life whose name is Satyagraha of which the world of mathematics is but a ever-significant microcosm.

(The author of inthesaltmine)

Of course, I am not surprised: Zalamea’s book is the main eye-opener in this generation in Philosophy of Mathematics. I can only feel deep gratitude to have crossed his path at an early age (when I met him, I was 22 years old; Zalamea was the reader of my Master’s Thesis with Xavier Caicedo: his comments to my thesis were at the same time incredibly encouraging, and they allowed my to glimpse and have a sense of the potential of the theories I was starting to study at the time). Our paths have crossed in different places (oddly, not so much in the Math Department of Bogotá, although we have been members of the same committees and have offices in the same corridor, just three doors apart): Catalonia, for several intense days during which Fernando drove with MaríaElsa, and María Clara and me through minimal roads leading through gorges and precipices to the wildest dreams of imagination of the Romanesque Period in the monasteries of Catalonia, or Finland (where we had to leave before his arrival – the paths did not quite cross but almost did – we connected through aspects and places in Helsinki). Or, oddly enough, in New York – crossing paths in a weird way earlier this year. Or else through the volume Rondas en Sais, edited by Fernando, with papers by Javier Moreno, Alejandro Martín, Alex Cruz, Francisco Vargas, myself and of course Zalamea himself… Or in El Vendrell…

IMG_1317
A few years back, María Clara Cortés and Fernando Zalamea, by the sinking boat…

The search for Lautman (physical, in a street of Toulouse; conceptual, through the years), the use of new frames of mind, all this is a sort of dialogue that the author of inthesaltmine proposes after his reading of Zalamea’s volume.

Dialogue with Zalamea is of a weird kind: he is not (often) devoted to direct exchange of ideas: to engage dialogue with Zalamea, you essentially have to do a lot of work, give some lectures, and after that you will get a response in the form of a comment to some aspect of your lecture; or else write an essay (or even better, publish a paper or a book!) and you will get incredible feedback. Zalamea is (also) an extremely keen and sharp reader – one of those readers who may discover many things in your own text that “were there but you didn’t notice until he pointed them out”.

Recently, the “phenomenological sheaf” has started to twist itself: in later musings, we (with Gabriel Padilla, with Tim Gendron, etc.) have started to include the effect of actions by groups on the fibers – actions coherent and exact themselves – sheaf actions and their quotients. These give rise to new objects, quotients of sheaves, contorted sheaves, torsion incorporated in a sheaf-like way. A first (mathematical) foray, done with Gabriel, already extends the Generic Model Theorem to this new realm, and opens the way to twisted objects. With Tim, the work connects these objects with problems in number theory (no paper yet there).

2 thoughts on “The garden of forking paths

  1. Mil gracias por sus bellas palabras, Andrés, y por remitirme a esa espectacular entrada de *inthesaltime* (fascinante personaje). Las conexiones aparecen realmente en lugares insospechados. Y felicitaciones por la “boîte” francesa! (por mi lado, Gracq va solo después de Proust en el siglo XX francés; le recomiendo luego textos sobre la campiña francesa y sobre las aguas del mismo Gracq: un lujo).

  2. ¡Gracq me ha impresionado muchísimo, Fernando! No he avanzado tanto (estoy degustando el idioma), pero lo que he leído hasta ahora me hace ver que realmente es un grande grande. Buscaré después textos sobre la campiña de Francia y las aguas… (Siguen apareciendo conexiones en lugares increíbles. Ver esa entrada en ese blog me ayudó a ver muchas cosas de su libro.)

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