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Podcast: Episode 32 – Maths news with Sarah Shepherd

These are the show notes for episode 32 of the Travels in a Mathematical World Podcast. 32 is the number of panels in the spherical polyhedron corresponding to the Archimedean solid the truncated icosahedron which is the most popular design of a modern football. More about the truncated icosahedron from Wolfram Mathworld. More about 32 from Number Gossip.

This week on the podcast I met Sarah Shepherd, PhD student at the University of Nottingham and Editor of iSquared Magazine and we discussed some maths news. Links to all the articles we mentioned are below.

May saw the general release of Wolfram|Alpha, a computational knowledge engine. For a general overview read “Wolfram ‘search engine’ goes live” from the BBC or a little more detail from “Ask Alpha: Quizzing the world’s first answer engine” from New Scientist or “Where does Wolfram Alpha get its information?” from The Guardian. You can read the BBC’s Rory Cellan-Jones investigation “Does Wolfram work?” Read about the first week of operation on Stephen Wolfram’s blog post “The First Week of Wolfram|Alpha: Thank You!”. You can read my blog post when I was playing around with Wolfram|Alpha.

A mobile phone comparison site powered by statistical analysis has become the first of its kind to be accredited by Ofcom, the communications regulator. You can read about this in “Academics tot up costs of mobiles” from the BBC or “BillMonitor comparison site rings Ofcom’s bell” from the Guardian.

The Guardian talks to Paul Wilmott, a financial mathematician who claims to have seen the credit crunch coming and has fairly strong views on who is to blame. Read “Number cruncher who foresaw financial crash.”

The inaugural Christopher Zeeman medal, jointly awarded by the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications and the London Mathematical Society and named in honour of Sir Christopher Zeeman, is to be awared to Professor Ian Stewart FRS. Read “It all adds up to connecting with people about numbers” from Times Higher Education.

On 15 May 2009, the Royal Society elected 44 new Fellows and 8 Foreign Members. I spotted 3 in maths – Professor Jonathan Peter Keating FRS, Professor Burt James Totaro FRS, Professor Yakov Sinai ForMemRS – plus 3 other using maths – Professor (John) Michael Batty CBE FBA FRS, Professor (Oscar) Peter Buneman FRS, Professor Angela McLean FRS. You can read profiles of all new Fellows and Foreign Members on the Royal Society website.

On six degrees of seperation, following the BBC programme, you can read “How Kevin Bacon sparked a new branch of science” from the BBC. You can read a general overview of the mathematical topic and its links to popular culture from Wikipedia. The BBC experiment sending packages to Boston is based on a study from the 1960s; you can read more about this and a later attempt to recreate this via email at “E-mail Study Corroborates Six Degrees of Separation” in Scientific American. There is a piece covering the small world phenomenon in Plus “Rap: rivalry and chivalry

You can read the article from the New Scientist which covers quantum computing and game theory, “Quantum poker: Are the chips down or not?

On films, Sarah mentions “Fermat’s Room” and I talk about “Agora“. You can read about the impact of the latter at Cannes in “Cannes film festival falls in love with maths” from the Guardian.

On improved weather forecasting, you can read “Met Office unveils supercomputer” from the BBC.

I mentioned Marcus du Sautoy’s Sexy Maths column in the Times. Recent editions at the time of recording were “A game of 12 pentagons: Why a football match is actually geometry in motion” and “In search of the poetry of Muslim symmetry.”

You can find out more about iSquared Magazine on the iSquared website.

You can find out more about my work with the IMA by following me on Twitter, reading this blog and visiting http://www.ima.org.uk/student/. Join the Facebook page.

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About the author

  • Peter Rowlett teaches mathematics at university. His views do not represent those of his employer. His column at The Aperiodical is Travels in a Mathematical World.

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