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  • Question of the week | Will fusion run out of fuel?

    One of the paradoxes of fusion, the virtually inexhaustible energy of the future, is that it relies on an element that does not exist—or just barely. Tritium, o [...]

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  • Managing data | Setting up a robust process

    Are the ITER systems and processes robust enough to manage the technical and project data for a program of ITER's complexity? Will quality information be made a [...]

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  • Image of the week | Bullseye

    Two perfectly circular structures, looking a lot like archery targets, have been installed on the west-facing wall of the Tokamak Complex. They are not for sh [...]

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  • Art and science | Seeking new perspectives on fusion

    Standing in the middle of the Tokamak Building, sound artist Julian Weaver positions his 3D microphone near one of the openings of the bioshield to record the s [...]

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  • Worksite photos | The view one never tires of

    For the past three-and a half years, ITER Communication has been documenting construction progress from the top of the tallest crane on the ITER worksite. Altho [...]

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Of Interest

See archived articles

Fields Medal Villani sees where equations lead

Robert Arnoux

2010 Fields Medal laureate Cédric Villani visited the ITER site on Thursday 20 December before giving a seminar at CEA-Cadarache's IRFM. (Click to view larger version...)
2010 Fields Medal laureate Cédric Villani visited the ITER site on Thursday 20 December before giving a seminar at CEA-Cadarache's IRFM.
There's poetry in mathematics and this may be the reason why Cedric Villani, one of the most brilliant mathematicians of his generation, dresses as a 19th century romantic poet—long, dark riding coat; a large, loose cravat that the French call a lavallière; and, of course, shoulder-length hair. (Oftentimes, a large brooch in the form of a spider is also pinned to his lapel.)

A professor at the École normale supérieure and the director of the Institut Henri Poincaré, Villani, 39, was awarded the Fields Medal two years ago. The Fields—equivalent in prestige to a Nobel Prize (not awarded for mathematics)—is the highest prize a mathematician can receive.

Although not directly connected to fusion research, Villani's work stands "at the extreme theoretical end of ITER," exploring the properties of some of the equations that describe the behaviour of particles in a plasma, or the movement of stars in a galaxy.

In the summer of 2010, he taught a course at Marseille's international centre for mathematics meetings (Centre International de Rencontres Mathématiques) as part of a program on mathematical plasma physics related to ITER. Last Thursday 20 December, before giving a seminar on non-linear Landau damping at the CEA Cadarache-based Institute for Magnetic Fusion Research (IRFM), he paid a visit to the ITER site with a party of IRFM physicists.

In a previous Newsline interview the Fields Medal laureate had stressed the importance, when one deals with abstractions, of remaining solidly "anchored in reality." The mathematical equations he explores, after all, are the true foundations of the ITER Project.


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