Dr Hildenbrand, you are the managing director of the LOEWE cluster known as Cocoon in Darmstadt. What does Cocoon do? Many devices today send and receive signals wirelessly, such as mobile phones, navigation devices and even car keys. Cocoon is aiming to continue developing the communications technology for these devices and therefore open up new application areas. One thing is absolutely clear: applications involving cooperative sensor communications will continue to change the way that we live and work in future too.
What has your career been like: once a scientist, always a scientist?
I am a computer scientist by nature. After my university course, I first went into business and worked in the development department at a medium-sized company. When I got the chance to earn my PhD, I was drawn back into the academic world. And I have stayed here.
Any search for your name on the Internet very quickly links you with "geometric algebra". What does it involve?
“Geometric algebra” is a simple and general mathematical language. Hermann Grassmann, a mathematician from Szczecin (then known as Stettin), laid the foundations for "geometric algebra" in 1844 – we now just refer to it as "GA". At that time, however, hardly any of his colleagues listened to him. It is only in recent years that we have recognised the immense potential of GA for many areas of engineering and the natural sciences. It is being used in engineering, mainly in the fields of computer graphics, computer vision and robotics, at the moment. Physics in particular is benefiting from GA in the natural sciences.
You have now presented "geometric algebra" in schools on several occasions. How do the pupils react? They mainly respond with a sense of amazement. They have never before experienced a situation where mathematics is so simple and comprehensible. They experienced real success within a very short time when they had to calculate the sphere surrounding a pyramid, for example. I very much hope that geometric algebra will find its way into school curriculums in the near future. This would then prevent many pupils from developing a sense of frustration with maths. I am looking forward to inspiring children’s interest in geometric algebra at the children's university in Darmstadt in November.
- Managing Director of LOEWE's Cocoon division (until November 2013)