When Prince died suddenly in April last year, the Berlin research center Matheon issued a public statement. The mathematicians’ message was that the pop star’s life could have been saved. Yet that didn’t explain why a mathematics research group felt inclined to make the statement. Prince certainly didn’t die from a number.
However, Prince did die from a large dose of the painkiller fentanyl. The drug belongs to the family of opioids, and is similar to morphine but with devastating side effects. Its dangerous nature is very well known at the Zuse Institute in Berlin, perhaps better than anywhere else in the world. Over 10 years ago Marc Weber and his team began to work to free fentanyl of its detrimental side effects. Suddenly Prince’s death was very relevant to the work of a mathematics institute in Berlin.
The math boom in Berlin is very different from what is going on across the country in Bonn. While the Rhineland city is the stronghold of theoretical mathematics, Berlin thinks more in practical terms.