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Yves Meyer, Ingrid Daubechies, Terence Tao and Emmanuel Candès

Princess of Asturias Award for Technical & Scientific Research 2020

Ms. Ingrid Daubechies' message of thanks at the presentation of the Princess of Asturias Awards, held on 16th October 2020

I would like to start by thanking the Foundation of the Princess of Asturias for giving us this Award; not just only in my own name, but also in the name of my three co-awardees, Emanuel Candès, Yves Meyer and Terry Tao.

I am very sorry that we couldn’t be here with you in this wonderful Award Week, this cultural week around all the different Awards of the Foundation. We hope somebody here to be able to participate. But I’m still here with you in this video and I’d like to take this occasion to tell you a little bit about what mathematics means for us, means for us working mathematicians.

Mathematics, of course, you’ve heard it, oh, in many different circumstances, mathematics is useful. Mathematics is useful to physicists, to engineers, to scientists. Mathematics is the foundation of so many things.

In my own career, I have used mathematics in working with geophysicists, with people in neuroscience, with people in biology, and recently, also, working with art conservators in helping them analyze images to conserve paintings better, including with people in the Prado.

Mathematics is not just useful; mathematics is also beautiful. An object like this one is something that every mathematician would really, really like, because it has so many different symmetries and this is one mathematical beauty. The beauty of mathematics is all around us, everywhere, even if you don’t realize it. When you see something that you find beautiful in its symmetries, what you are really doing is expressing mathematical appreciation. Mathematics is fun. I mean, you solve problems by the pure power of thinking. How cool is that!

It’s also a very social thing. Mathematicians work together. We all four know each other, have discussed with each other, have amazed each other with insights. We explain things. We use our hands a lot in explaining things. You wouldn’t think so from seeing dry mathematics texts. But mathematics is not just about the formulas and the theorems and so on. Mathematics is about understanding the world, understanding and understanding how there are similarities between things that might not have seemed similar at first.

So mathematics is all that. I hope this Award will inspire many young people to see the fun, the joy, the beauty, the excitement in mathematics and study mathematics as they build up their own life.

I would like to thank the Foundation again and I’m so sorry we couldn’t be here with you. We hope to come some other time.

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