The “unreasonable effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences” is well-argued (cf. the famous 1960 article by Eugene Wigner). However, this goes both ways. It is clear, especially since the recent progress in understanding quantum field theory and string theory, that the effectiveness of physics in mathematics is equally striking. In this talk we discuss, by example, how ideas arising in physics, in particular using dualities, have had a profound influence in developing new mathematics, and have led to many results (conjectures) that remain inaccessible to `rigorous proof’ using current mathematical techniques.
About the speaker
Professor Peter Bouwknegt studied theoretical physics and mathematics at the University of Utrecht Netherlands, under the supervision of Professor G 't Hooft (Nobel Prize for Physics 1999), and at the University of Amsterdam under Professor FA Bais. He obtained his PhD in 1988. He then spent several years as a postdoctoral fellow at MIT, CERN and the University of Southern California before settling in Australia in 1995. He spent almost 10 years at the University of Adelaide, first as an ARC QEII Fellow and subsequently as an ARC Senior Research Fellow, before being appointed Professor of Theoretical Physics & Mathematics at ANU in 2005.
He is a recipient of the 2001 medal of the Australian Mathematical Society, and an expert on the mathematical foundations of string theory and conformal field theory. He served on the Australian Research Council's College of Experts and the ERA-REC, and is a former Director of the Mathematical Sciences Institute.