Granted, it can be difficult in math to deliver public lectures about your work, but Jacob Lurie’s Breakthrough Prize lecture after winning the 2014 Breakthrough Prize is a public lecture masterpiece:
To show how lectures like Lurie’s can inspire kids, this morning I watched the first 10 to 15 minutes of his lecture with my kids and then asked them about what they thought. It led to a really fun conversation.
To start – my younger son (who is in 4th grade) was interested in Lurie’s discussion of modular arithmetic, and we used some clock arithmetic to work through a few examples:
After that my older son said that the ideas about the ever-growing sets of different kinds of numbers was something he thought was interesting:
After hearing about the ideas that they found interesting, I asked each of the boys to come up with a question about the integers that they thought would be interesting. My younger son asked a question about instead – his question led to a super fun talk about properties of You never know what is going to grab a kid’s attention!
Finally, I asked my older son to come up with a question about integers, and he wondered if we’d be able to prove that was irrational!
Oh yes!! Another great conversation!
So, I really hope the Breakthrough Prize folks go back to more of a “public lecture” format than a “first year graduate student” format. The public lectures can be such a powerful tool for inspiring kids.