Benjamin Hackl

A Report from Uppsala

Date: June 10, 2021
Tags: Uppsala, Matura, Manim, MRC, Google Summer of Code, AofA

It’s time for an update! A lot of stuff has happened in the past few weeks, and I think my blog is a good space to keep track of it all (at least a bit 😅).

🇦🇹 → 🇸🇪

You would think that relocating during a global pandemic would be a rather complex endeavour – and well, you are right with that assumption. Nevertheless, I’ve been planning to join Uppsala University for a postdoc position for a while now, and I’m very happy that things finally worked out.

The apartment that I’m renting together with my girlfriend is actually really nice (and by now also well-equipped with a more than suitable home office); I’m pretty sure that we’ve had a fair amount of luck with getting it, especially considering that formal procedures can be a bit complicated for people without a Swedish social security number. (Basically, without a Personnummer, you’re not a person. I can’t even get through in the hotline of my internet provider, but well, that’s life. I hope to be a real person soon again.)

From a mathematical point of view, I’m really looking forward to an exciting time in Uppsala.

Maintaining Manim

A bit less than a year ago, when I’ve supervised summer interns together with my colleague Rosi Rissner, I got interested in Grant “3b1b” Sanderson’s Python animation library Manim. I’ve always been interested in science communication, and Manim seemed like the right tool (videos!) at the right time (during a pandemic!) to pick up.

The ManimCommunity logo

In May 2020, a small community has decided to start maintaining the library that Grant generously made public. And well, a series of escalations (mainly caused by the fact that I like working on Open Source software way too much) have resulted in me becoming one of the maintainers / organization administrators for ManimCommunity.

We have recently published a new release, version v0.7.0, with an impressive changelog (especially considering that according to our release cycle we release once a month).

If you have never seen Manim in action, I’d definitely like to point you towards our example gallery – or just watch a few of Grant’s YouTube videos! I think that Manim has a lot of potential for Mathematics and Science education in general. I’m curious to see where the community’s journey will lead, and I’m honored to, metaphorically, have my hands on the steering wheel.

Orchestrating Outreach

In celebration of the 1-year anniversary of the foundation of ManimCommunity, the community had the idea of organizing a weekend-long hackathon in which participants could submit short animations fitting to a general theme, including the opportunity to win prizes. The community aspect of ManimCommunity is pretty important to me, which is why I’ve been heavily involved in the organization of the event – which took place during the last weekend.

The video presentation of the opening ceremony can be found here on Twitch (of course I’ve streamed it! 😄), and given that the presentation has some interesting numbers I’ll also embed it here.

Given that we have done something like this for the first time, we were pretty overwhelmed by the more than 100 submissions from about 30 participants we received during the weekend. I’m pretty sure that we’ll organize more events like that in the future.

Successfully out of School…

Speaking of Twitch, I’ve recently also been live there for a different reason: it’s the season of the Austrian school leaving exams (Matura), and I once again streamed myself going through the Mathematics exams. The corresponding videos for two different school types (which have differing centralized exams) can be found here for the AHS, and here for the BHS (HTL 2). I enjoy streaming in that setting, and will likely continue to do so in the future as well. (I’m actually surprised how many people find these videos by now organically by searching for Matura on YouTube.)

… and into a Mathematical Summer

Yet another pretty big thing that happened recently: after being cancelled last year, the Mathematics Research Community Combinatorial Applications of Computational Geometry and Algebraic Topology finally took place, and it was indeed a great (virtual) workshop that helped me to meet new people in/adjacent to my field as well as to pick up some new mathematical problems to work on.


During the week, I’ve been mainly working together with Elaine Wong and Jesse Selover to translate some Maple code for finding minimal critical points of multivariate combinatorial generating functions (it already sounds fancy!) from a recent publication by Steve Melczer and Bruno Salvy to SageMath. Eventually, as soon as everything is polished enough, this should extend the currently existing module for computations with multivariate generating functions (see trac ticket #31908).

And while we’re talking about SageMath: I’m very happy to report that this year, I’m mentoring the project on including support for explicitly bounded error terms (B-Terms) in this year’s edition of the Google Summer of Code. Thomas has already been quite busy, and a basic prototype for an implementation of this feature in simple cases is already in reach (trac tickets #31922 and #31933).

As usual, the start of the summer is also conference season – in particular, the 32nd International Conference on Probabilistic, Combinatorial and Asymptotic Methods for the Analysis of Algorithms (AofA2021) will take place from June 14 to June 17. Due to the circumstances, the University of Klagenfurt was given the opportunity to host the event both in 2020 (which was converted to an asynchronous online conference) and in 2021 (which was converted to a synchronous online conference), but unfortunately in-presence conferences are still not a particularly great idea at the moment. I would have said that at least the organizers will have the opportunity to enjoy the Wörthersee during the week – but in my case that’s also not quite true. I’m not too sad about it though: I’ve been told that midsummer in Sweden isn’t too bad either. 😄