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Podcast: Episode 36 – Maths news with Sarah Shepherd

These are the show notes for episode 36 of the Travels in a Mathematical World Podcast. 36 is the smallest number (besides 1) which is both square and triangular. More about 36 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.

Evolution of numeracy
Report on various studies into the ability of animals to do basic arithmetic. Read “Animals that count: How numeracy evolved” in New Scientist.

Bill Lionheart’s electric fish
Professor Bill Lionheart at University of Manchester is interested how the Black Ghost Knife Fish generates electric fields to help his work in Electrical Impedance Tomography (EIT). Read “Fish + electricity = new treatment” at BBC Manchester.

A new model has been developed to try to explain ‘phantom’ traffic jams. Read “Mathematicians take aim at ‘phantom’ traffic jams” at MIT news.

Deal or No Deal
Article looks the behaviour of contestants in the game show Deal or No Deal, whether they are guided by mathematics or superstition, following a feature on the BBC’s More or Less radio programme. Read “The odds of Deal or No Deal” from the BBC.

Dara O’Briain
Interview with Dara O’Briain covers his background in mathematical physics and dislike of “pseudoscience”. Also on what brought him to stand up comedy. Read “Graduate Special: Mock the geek” in New Scientist.

The piece on male under-performance and the link to GCSE is “GCSEs blamed for boys not going to university” in the Guardian. The UK gender differences in science are compared with other countries in “Science gender gap ‘widest in UK’” from the BBC. The discussion of the reason for gender bias in the US is covered in “The Math Gender Gap Explained” in Newsweek and is covered in the blog post “Gender gap in maths driven by social factors, not biological differences” at the Not Exactly Rocket Science blog.

Mathematicians in Sport
I mentioned Leeds Rugby player Ryan Hall, Olympic gold medallist Chris Hoy, cricketer Claire Taylor and Commonwealth light-heavyweight boxer Nathan Cleverly, all sports people in the news with a mathematics background.

A Level Sat Nav
A report by think-tank Reform says teenagers are being ‘spoon-fed’ A-Levels, especially in maths. Read “Think-tank Reform says pupils are ‘spoon-fed’ with sat-nav A levels” in the Times.

Marcus du Sautoy
Marcus du Sautoy’s Sexy Maths column has recent features on swine flu and game theory. Marcus’ piece on sparking off an interest in maths, “The secret life of numbers“, in the Guardian and its accompanying mathematical architecture tour with 11 images of buildings of mathematical interest.

Royal Society Summer Science – How do shapes fill space?
The 2009 Summer Science Exhibition at the Royal Society includes an exhibit How do shapes fill space? by a team led by mathematician Edmund Harriss, which looks at how space can be filled with shapes and what this can tell about the natural world and medieval art. Watch a video on the exhibition in a previous blog post.

Summer issue of iSquared features an inteview with crowd modeller Keith Still plus articles on Archimedes, the financial crisis and the mathematical modelling of water pollution. For more visit the iSquared Magazine Website.

The winners of the Plus New Writers Award 2009 have been announced. You can read the winning entries (2 in each of three categories – school, university and general public) along with other articles in the latest issue of Plus.

I mentioned a piece on the IMA RUMS blog from Heriot-Watt about “Setting up a Maths Society“.

You can find out more about my work with the IMA by following me on Twitter, reading this blog and visiting 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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