ZIEGLER, Günter M.

Professor, Freie Universität Berlin, Department of Mathematics and Computer Science


Professor Günter M. Ziegler was born in München, Germany, in 1963. He got a Ph.D. at M.I.T. with Anders Björner in 1987. In 1995 became a Professor of Mathematics at TU Berlin. In 2006 he became the founding chair of Berlin Mathematical School, where he remains active as a co-chair. He is a member of the DFG Research Center MATHEON - Mathematics for Key Technologies since its start in 2002. In 2011 joined Freie Universität Berlin as a MATHEON Professor.

His interests connect discrete and computational geometry (especially polytopes), algebraic and topological methods in combinatorics, discrete mathematics and the theory of linear and integer programming. He is the author of "Lectures on Polytopes" (Springer 1995), of "Proofs from THE BOOK" (with Martin Aigner, Springer 1998), which has by now appeared in 14 languages, and of "Darf ich Zahlen? Geschichten aus der Mathematik" (English translation: "Do I count? Stories from Mathematics", CRC 2013). His latest book is "Mathematik - Das ist doch keine Kunst!" (Knaus-Verlag, München 2013).

His honors include a Leibniz Prize (2001) of the German Research Foundation DFG, the Chauvenet Prize (2004) of the Mathematical Association of America, and the 2008 Communicator Award of DFG and Stifterverband. He is a member of the executive board of the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences, a member of the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina and of the National Academy of Science and Technology "acatech", a Fellow of the American Mathematical Society, and a member of the Senate of the German Science Foundation. For 2006-2008 he was the President of the German Mathematical Society DMV. He initiated and co-organized the German National Science Year Jahr der Mathematik 2008 and now directs the DMV Mathematics Media Office and the DMV Network Office Schools-Universities.




11:30-13:00 5 NOVEMBER

What to do when “Public Understanding of Science” turns out to be impossible?

As a Mathematician, I see myself at the core of the Science Communication dilemma:

We are all immersed in Mathematics, subject to Mathematical Technologies, but many of those are hidden, so we may not even be aware of them.

On the other hand, the Mathematics behind the Technology is incredibly compliciated: There is NO WAY that it can be "explained" to the layperson – who however has to be aware of what the technologies can do (e.g. with his/her data) in order to make informed and safe choices. A "public understanding of science and humanities" – as promoted up to now, is plainly impossible.

I claim that this on the one hand means that we need

(1) more attention to science education at schools, which should focus on the teachers – what image and panorama of Mathematics do they have? Is it updated and enriched, to be up-to-date to deal with the current challenges?

(2) increased and internationally-coordinated efforts in science communication, in order to create awareness of the role, possibilities, challenges and dangers of Mathematics and Natural Sciences in a modern world of Data Science, Artificial Intelligence, and Information Technologies,

(3) a new realism and honesty about how much you can "explain" to "the public", a realistic discussion about what can and should be explained, what can be illustrated, what can be told (in form of stories, images, etc.), and how to deal with P2C2Es (Processes too complicated to explain),

(4) and a re-evaluation of how science-communication works today, with the roles of Universities, Research Labs, Companies, media like Science and Nature, newspapers, TV, Web – and the question of whether this can in any way be connected to the way Sciences (such as Mathematics) are presented and taught ("as far as possible") at schools and universities.