Annual High School Students' Visit to the Institute - IHES
Emmanuel Ullmo faisant visiter l'IHES aux élèves des lycées de l'académie de Versailles IHES

Annual High School Students’ Visit to the Institute

On Saturday, May 25th, IHES welcomed over 80 high school students, including more than 50 girls, for a visit to the Institute followed by lectures by IHES Junior Professor in Physics Clément Delcamp and Xenia Flamm, a postdoctoral researcher in mathematics.

This yearly visit to the Institute, organized by school inspectors Xavier Gabilly, Pierre Michalak, Evelyne Roudneff, and Christine Weill, gives students passionate about science an opportunity to dive into the world of fundamental research.

The event started with a tour of the Institute, including stops at the tea room, the scientific buildings, the library, and the Marilyn and James Simons Conference Center. During the visit, students learned about the history and functioning of IHES, and particularly about the importance of the IHES visitors’ program and the Institute’s famous afternoon tea, highlighting the importance of cooperation in modern science.

Students visiting IHES

The presence of wild boars in the park prevented the students from seeing the Skolem sculpture, which illustrates the sequences first introduced by the eponymous Norwegian mathematician. Luckily, they were still able to admire a real-life model of a flexahedron in the Institute’s library. This mathematical model is a constructive solution to the question of the existence of a polyhedron that can be deformed while keeping all of its faces rigid. The existence of such an object was first proven by Robert Connelly in the late 1970s while visiting IHES. The Institute’s flexahedron, designed by Pierre Deligne and Nicolaas Kuiper, has 11 vertices. Today, it is still an open question whether it is possible to construct a flexahedron with fewer than 9 vertices.

Clément Delcamp lecturing

After the tour of the Institute, the students were welcomed by Emmanuel Ullmo, the current Director of IHES, for two 30-minute lectures at the Marilyn and James Simons Conference Center. Clément Delcamp started by showing how knot theory is used in theoretical physics to design topological models of quantum computers, which are more stable and less error-prone than other models of quantum computing. Xenia Flamm then lectured on the notion of infinity in mathematics. In her presentation, she first explained how one can count the number of elements in an infinite set and then showed that there are infinite sets of different “sizes” such as the set \mathbb{Q} of rational numbers and the set \mathbb{R} of real numbers. She ended her talk by mentioning Gödel’s incompleteness theorems and the continuum hypothesis. The lively Q&A sessions after each presentation testified to the quality of the talks and the interest they sparked among the students.

Xenia Flamm lecturing

IHES warmly thanks all the participants for attending the event.