Characteristic Classes

This story is part of a series entitled Leaving Mathematics. See also:
1. The Baltimore Snowstorm; 2. The Italian School; 3. Characteristic Classes

Rainer noticed the pattern halfway through July. He had constructed smooth surfaces in a certain four-dimensional smooth algebraic variety, using the Chern classes of vector bundles. He noticed that he could anticipate these surfaces’ Hodge numbers. “This seems to amount virtually to something like a non-existence result,” he wrote, later that day, in an email to a junior faculty member at another school.

Rainer soon sank into a deep depression. “I go full days without saying a single word,” he told Diego, over the phone. Continue reading

The Italian School

This story is part of a series entitled Leaving Mathematics. See also:
1. The Baltimore Snowstorm; 2. The Italian School; 3. Characteristic Classes

“Of course you should go!” Professor Torino nodded honestly, smiling inexplicably. Torino hung like that for an instant, balanced in his chair. He relaxed suddenly, his smile vanishing. “Pieri is a good mathematician,” he continued. “We spent a summer together at the Institute in 1991.”

Professor Torino always seemed to like Josif, though Josif didn’t fully understand why. Continue reading

The Baltimore Snowstorm

This story is part of a series entitled Leaving Mathematics. See also:
1. The Baltimore Snowstorm; 2. The Italian School; 3. Characteristic Classes

Crows fled the cupola of the university’s old bell tower when it tolled for the last time. That was years ago, and well after the university’s gradual desertion had ground to a final halt. Howling wind blew flurries of snow between the ice-covered power lines, and old books and papers, strewn across the floor, were visible, in one classroom, through loose shutters which banged open and closed in the wind.

“I’ve reached the old castle of bullshit,” Chaim said, through his walkie-talkie, as he approached the university’s gate, squinting towards the campus buildings shrouded in white above. “Who wants to talk philosophy?” Continue reading