When the mathematician AK Erlang first used probability theory to model telephone networks in the early twentieth century he could hardly have imagined that the science he founded would one day help solve a most pressing global
problem: how to wean ourselves off fossil fuels and switch to renewable energy sources.
Many people's impression of mathematics is that it is an ancient edifice built on centuries of research. However, modern quantitative finance, an area of mathematics with such a great impact
on all our lives, is just a few decades old. The Isaac Newton Institute quickly recognised its
importance and has already run two seminal
programmes, in 1995 and 2005, supporting
research in the field of mathematical finance.
Progress in pure mathematics has its own tempo. Major questions may remain open for decades, even centuries, and once an answer has been found, it can take a collaborative effort of many mathematicians in the field to check
that it is correct. The New Contexts for Stable Homotopy Theory programme, held at the Institute in 2002, is a prime example of how its research programmes can benefit researchers and its lead to landmark results.
Nobel Prizewinning Physicist Professor Gerardus 't Hooft has always been fascinated by the mathematical mysteries of nature. He tells Plus about his early life, and what our Universe might really be like.