Friday, August 20, 2010

Chabot Is Out

Arlette Chabot, longtime news director at France2, has been ousted. Veteran readers of this blog will recall her widely reported spat with Nicolas Sarkozy back in 2009. It was rumored then that she would not remain in her job for long, but she survived almost a year. Of course Sarkozy's various disagreements with her may have had nothing to do with her ouster. But then again ... When the executive exerts as much control over the state news media as in France, Fats Waller's dictum is always pertinent: "One never knows, do one?"

Selon les informations du "Monde", Arlette Chabot a été "relevée de ses fonctions" de directrice de l'information de France 2 et va quitter son poste la semaine prochaine.

French Mathematics

Two French mathematicians, Ngo Bau Chau and Cédric Villani, have been awarded the prestigious Fields Medal. The politicians and newspapers are crowing. But seriously, is there something distinctive about the way in which mathematics is taught in France to account for French overrepresentation at the highest levels of mathematics? I think the answer may be yes, and I speak with some knowledge of the subject: my Ph.D. is in math, and my thesis drew on the work of a number of great French mathematicians, including René Thom and Jean-Pierre Serre. But more important than the way in which mathematics is taught, perhaps, is its place in the French cultural pantheon. My impression, perhaps erroneous, is that mathematics is held in higher esteem in France than in most other countries, with the possible exception of Russia. The first question asked of a mathematician in France is not, What is your work good for? Abstraction is valued. Art for art's sake is a concept that is understood, if honored perhaps more in the breach than the observance. In any case, it's good to hear French mathematics talked about again as something other than the basis of financial engineering.

How Should the Roma Be Treated?

A commentator suggests that there are no easy solutions.