Greeting Luis Caffarelli, the new Abel-prize winner

Luis A. Caffarelli with his wife Irene Gamba and Kristof Fenyvesi

On May 25th, 300 school children participated in Experience Workshop’s STEAM workshops in the Norwegian city Tromsø. For no other reason but to greet the new Abel-prize winner mathematician, Luis A. Caffarelli

That’s how Experience Workshop’s Kristof Fenyvesi recalls the event in a Facebook post:

“YESTERDAY I had the rare opportunity to present a meticulously crafted model of Sir Kroto’s iconic “soccer ball molecule” to none other than Luis Caffarelli, renowned as the “Lionel MESSI” of Mathematics. Luis, a mathematical genius and the recipient of the esteemed Abel Prize in 2023, achieved worldwide recognition for his brilliance, rooted in his Argentine heritage.

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The enchanting model, a testament to scientific wonder, was lovingly assembled by a talented 10-year-old Norwegian girl during the vibrant Abel Day Celebrations in Tromsø, under the guidance of the math-art activities I led together with my friends, Cordian Riener and Matias Kaukolinna with the 4Dframe STEAM toolkit, we received from our Korean friend, Hogul Park.

It is almost inconceivable to fathom the incredible juxtaposition of my own former struggles, plagued by doubt and failure in both chemistry and mathematics in my formal schooling, and the astonishing prowess of my remarkable young Norwegian “colleague”, the 10-year-old girl, who assembled the model of the soccer ball molecule. Together, we became the catalysts for an extraordinary connection between two giants of scientific history, Sir Harald Kroto, discoverer of fullerenes with the shape of a football ball, and Professor Caffarelli.

But wait, there’s more to this extraordinary tale! Allow me to share an additional detail that amplifies the magic of this narrative. As an education researcher hailing from Finland, I carry the torch of Finnish education with unwavering pride. It has become a personal mission for me to spread its influence across the globe. Hence, in my workshops, I encourage students to infuse their soccer ball molecule models with the vivid colors of the Finnish flag: blue and white.

It was during one such workshop at Abel Day that the Messi of Mathematics, Caffarelli, encountered our blue and white masterpiece. The moment he laid eyes upon it, an expression of deep appreciation swept across his face. It wasn’t Finland that resonated with him; rather, our creation had evoked memories of the beloved blue and white flag of Argentina. This serendipitous connection grew even more profound as we presented this extraordinary gift to him on the very day of Veinticinco de Mayo (May 25th). This national holiday in Argentina commemorates the 1810 revolution, which ignited the flame of independence, marking the birth of the first Argentine government and the liberation from Spanish rule.

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On this sacred day, businesses close, and Argentine cities radiate with the striking hues of sky blue and white—the colors that symbolize the revolutionary spirit. Just like the majestic blue and white soccer ball molecule model we presented to him, our gift became a poignant embodiment of this cherished national celebration.

The symphony of events that led to this historic encounter leaves me in awe. I, who once grappled with self-doubt and insecurity at chemistry and math lessons in school, had the honor of bridging the gap between these two titans of scientific history. This captivating journey has underscored the power of knowledge, creativity, and the universal language of passion of learning that unites us all.

Happy Maths with #abelprize2023 laureate, Luis Caffarelli and his wife, @Irene Gamba and 300 Norwegian kids. And yes. The Messi of mathematics, received a Truncated Icosahedron aka Football aka Fullerene in Argentinian/Finnish colors, created by a Norwegian girl. Thank you Norway for taking such a great care of #mathematics #humanity #happiness and #learning!”



The Abel Prize is awarded annually to an international mathematician who has distinguished himself or herself over many years. This year’s award went to Luis A. Caffarelli from the University of Texas, USA. He received the award in a formal ceremony in Oslo on May 23, then he travelled to Tromsø on May 25 to meet the children at the university library, meet mathematics students and give a lecture at UiT The Arctic University of Norway. More information about the Abel Prize:

Image credits: Kristof Fenyvesi, Matias Kaukolinna, The Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters

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