Tournament of Towns in Toronto
Summer Conference
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20th Summer Conference, Mendeleevo, 2008

Jonathan Zung

This year Tournament of Towns Summer Conference took place in the quiet town of Mendeleevo, situated at the edge of a forest north of Moscow. Six problem sets were proposed this year, covering topics ranging from weighing balls with broken balances to parabola geometry. I chose to work on a project concerned with determining the number of admissible states in a Rubik's cube and in larger/higher-dimensional analogues.

For the duration of the conference, we literally immersed ourselves in mathematics. From wake-up, through meals, up until that time of night when eyelids close themselves involuntarily, most every mind was continually contemplating an idea or problem. After working alone for a couple of days, I began collaborating with a Serbian on the project. Two minds definitely do work better than one; together, we began to continually churn out new ideas, some useful, some not, but all steps on the path to gaining a deeper understanding of the structure underlying mathematics.

The moments I most treasured from this experience were the 'aha' moments, the revelations that bloom into a wonderful piece of mathematics seemingly out of nowhere. Previously, I had never had the experience of working with such open-ended research-oriented problems. It was truly exhilarating to wander about these problems and find something new and different. For me, the Summer Conference was quite an enriching experience.


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