2020 Distinguished Lecture Series - March 3 & 5, 2020

Bjorn Poonen, Distinguished Professor of Science

Massachusetts Institute of Technology


March 3, 2020


“Undecidability in number theory”
3:30-4:30pm - Foxboro Auditorium

Abstract:  Hilbert's tenth problem asked for an algorithm that, given a multivariable polynomial equation with integer coefficients, would decide whether there exists a solution in integers.  Around 1970, Matiyasevich, building on earlier work of Davis, Putnam, and Robinson, showed that no such algorithm exists.  But the answer to the analogous question with integers replaced by rational numbers is still unknown, and there is not even agreement among experts as to what the answer should be.


Post talk discussion and reception
4:30-5:30pm - Kassar House Common Room


“Undecidability in group theory, analysis, and topology”
5:30-6:30pm - Foxboro Auditorium

Abstract:  Even before the resolution of Hilbert's tenth problem, some problems in group theory were proved undecidable.  This lecture will discuss how undecidability in group theory led to undecidability in topology, and how undecidability in number theory led to undecidability in analysis.


March 5, 2020


“Undecidability everywhere”
4:00-5:00pm - MacMillan 117

Abstract:  Undecidable problems have arisen in nearly every major branch of mathematics.  This lecture will present a sampling of these and will discuss a few problems whose undecidability status is not yet known, including one about chess.


*Hors d’oeuvres to precede March 5th talk from 3:30-4:00pm in the Kassar House Common Room.