The weekend saw mathematicians from far-off locations converge on the Math Sciences building for the regional meeting of the American Mathematical Society (AMS). The free public lecture that was scheduled for the evening hours not only attracted the mathematicians on-hand from the conference, but also people from many other walks of life, including seniors and children.
As I sat reading a recent arXiv paper on modified gravity and gravitational waves, I surveyed the venue. There was a large area where serving tables were set up, alongside several large round tables designated for enjoying the food and drinks at the reception after the lecture. Not surprisingly, many of the attendees arrived early because the seating was first-come-first-served. A department insider told me that 1,000 people RSVP’d, but the lecture hall only seats 500. The organizers reserved a second hall for 200 more guests, and anyone else would have to watch the lecture on a large projection unit set up outside on the patio. As I sat soaking in the color, I noticed the guest of honor – Professor Tao, arrive dressed in a formal black suit. This was making out to be quite an affair – imagine that, mathematics on a Saturday night!