Brazilians like their beer cold. At a typical Brazilian bar, the beer is stored in a freezer at minus 2 centigrades, and is still frozen when removed. But when the beer is poured slowly from the bottle, it quickly changes to liquid, essentially it forgets that it is ice. This is the moment that Brazilians enjoy most — that first sip of a recently frozen beer.


In physics, this is called metastability.  Researcher and deputy director at Brazil’s Applied and Pure Mathematics Association (IMPA), Claudio Landim uses mathematical models to prove the anomaly.  “This is a phenomenon in which liquids can remain in a certain state for a long time and then quickly jump to another,” he said.


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Landim presented his work, “Variational formula for the capacity induced by second-order elliptical differential operators” at ICM 2018.   His presentation reviewed the recent progress in the potential theory of second-order elliptic operators on the metastable behavior of Markov processes.


Landim has worked at IMPA since 1994, and his research focusses on probability and its application to statistical physics. A math graduate from PUC Rio (Pontifícia Universidade Católica) in 1995, he received his Ph.D. from the University of Paris VII in 1990.  A member of the Brazilian Academy of Sciences since 2000, his awards include the John S. Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellow (2004); Third World Academy of Science Prize in Mathematics (2006); Fellow of the Third World Academy of Science (2010), Comendador da Ordem National do Mérito Científico 2010.


As the ICM draws near an end, Landim shared his thoughts about the international math conference, held in the southern hemisphere for the first time this year.  It’s the first ICM he’s been to.  “I’ve seen many mathematicians so you really have the impression that you belong to a community,” he said. “Here you have the opportunity to meet people you’ve never met before, doing things completely differently. If they make an effort to present to you what they are doing in a way that you can understand, it is very pleasant.”


Landim’s presentation capped off a busy ICM.  As well as IMPA deputy director, Landim is general coordinator of the Brazilian math olympiad for public schools (OBMEP).  Last week he presented gold medals to hundreds of OBMEP (Brazilian Math Olympiad for Public Schools) winners at an elaborate ceremony and celebration.  More than 500 students traveled from all over Brazil to attend ICM and the presentation.  More than 18 million school children participated in OBMEP last year, making it the largest scale school competition in the world.