March 22, 1999

From the SIAM President
Gilbert Strang

You might remember last year's discussion of new ways for SIAM to give recognition to good work---especially by younger members. A first step in that direction will come at the 1999 Annual Meeting (May 12-15 in Atlanta). Three prizes will be awarded for outstanding papers published in SIAM journals in 1996-1998. A key criterion is originality---the prize committee hopes to recognize papers that bring a fresh look at an existing field or open up new areas of applied mathematics. An explicit definition of "young" seems impossible, so the committee has guidelines but no rigid constraints.

I think we could all be more generous with praise. A lot of hard and careful effort goes into a good paper in applied mathematics. We know this better than anyone, and it is good to tell authors how much we approve of their work. I personally regret the times I didn't take that opportunity, and I am happy to see SIAM doing it with these prizes. Special recognition is also deserved by the SIAM Activity Group on Dynamical Systems. They will meet May 23-27 in Snowbird (a great place in the mountains outside Salt Lake City). Their meetings have become tremendously popular events---this is a highly important activity of SIAM. The applications this year are extremely diverse, including biochemistry and genetics, physics, engineering, ecology, and finance. The mathematics is very exciting (and deep), ranging from ergodic theory to nonlinear PDEs.

In addition to its own conferences and workshops, SIAM joins with others in sponsoring meetings around the world. A good one on special functions is coming soon (June 21-25) in Hong Kong. I have greater respect than ever for special functions after recent work with Alan Edelman---who was counting paths in a graph. We were looking for the eigenvalues of the graph's adjacency matrix A, and path counts gave the diagonal entries in the powers of A.

The numbers that came out were 4, 28, 232, 2092, 19864, . . . and we couldn't see a pattern. In desperation, we sent them to (a miracle program created by Neil Sloane). To my amazement, superseeker returned a third-order recursion (quite complicated). Doubting the whole thing, I insisted on sending the next ten numbers in the sequence. The exact same recursion came back in nine seconds (with a generating function too, just what we needed). MATLAB produced the numbers, Maple simplified the recursion, and Mathematica identified the solution as a Jacobi polynomial. Is this really mathematics? At least we got the answer (a special function of course).

The Web ( has meeting programs and registration materials for Atlanta in May and the activity group meetings in Snowbird and in San Antonio---where parallel processing and geosciences will overlap, March 22-27. (And why not consider Hong Kong?) These are special things that even superseeker can't supersede.

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