The year 2013 has been marked for various mathematical activities under a wide umbrella of initiatives called the Mathematics of the Planet Earth (MPE) 2013, which will focus on mathematical research in areas of relevance to the various processes that affect the earth. The dynamics of the oceans and the atmosphere and the changes in the climate are, of course, the obvious topics that are important for life on planet earth and make use of mathematics in an essential way. In addition, a multitude of other topics are of relevance, including the financial and economic systems, energy production and utilisation, spread of epidemics at the population level, ecology and genomics of species. A comprehensive list of topics can be found on the website.
To stimulate imagination on the many domains where mathematics plays a crucial role in planetary issues, the following four (non-exhaustive) themes are proposed as part of MPE-2013:
A planet to discover: oceans; meteorology and climate; mantle processes, natural resources, celestial mechanics.
A planet supporting life: ecology, biodiversity, evolution.
A planet organised by humans: political, economic, social and financial systems; organisation of transport and communications networks; management of resources; energy.
A planet at risk: climate change, sustainable development, epidemics; invasive species, natural disasters.
Mathematics plays a crucial role in two ways in this research since it is used as a universal language and tool for any quantitative research in all the sciences, including biology, economics, and so on. Thus it is an essential component of any multi- or inter-disciplinary research. Furthermore, fundamental mathematical questions arise out of these research topics. MPE-2013 will highlight both these aspects.
Many international bodies are partners in MPE-2013. The International Centre for Theoretical Sciences (ICTS) of the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) is a partner-institute. The main goals of the ICTS are to foster research, be a resource for high-level education and training, and reach out to the larger society by being a node for scientific information and values. (More detailed information about the past, current, and proposed activities is available at http://www.icts.res.in/.) The ICTS would liaise with the Indian scientific community, possibly in collaboration with researchers around the world, to conduct workshops, thematic programmes, and conferences .
Another major theme will be outreach to increase awareness of the importance and essential nature of mathematics in tackling these problems, and to bring out the relevance and usefulness of mathematics to a wider section of society . One activity that is being actively pursued at the international level is a “Competition for an open source exhibition of virtual modules.” Information on this can be found at http://www.mpe2013.org/competition/
The outreach activities that the organisers hope to plan in India will be in the form of mathematics exhibitions, interactive sessions involving mathematical discussions and experiments for children, youth, and teachers, special guest lectures given by renowned mathematicians targeted, primarily, at the non-mathematics community. There are also plans for an India-specific call for exhibits (and possibly a competition), in cooperation with the global competition for exhibits.
Some of the faculty members at the TIFR Centre for Applicable Mathematics, Bangalore are involved in taking this initiative forward. The ICTS is looking for organisations and individuals interested in taking part in this initiative and want to hear about possible interests in the scientific and outreach activities (email: firstname.lastname@example.org).