It’s like they got Wes Anderson to film an academic PR video. In the normally uninspiring world of maths press releases, it’s quite refreshing. And the written press release is pretty snappy, too. Let’s not make this a thing, though.
(For once I can use an exclamation mark next to a number without wise alecks making the canonical joke)
Maths and stats! On BBC Radio 1! Who’d’ve though it!
DJ Clara Amfo and the ubiquitous Hannah Fry have got a new series on the UK’s top pop station, looking at music from a mathematical perspective.
Music by Numbers (excuse me, Music by Num83r5), is currently being broadcast at 9pm each Tuesday, and there are a couple of episodes already on iPlayer Radio to catch up on. The first is about Coldplay (records sold: millions; distinct tunes composed: 1) and the second looks at a few numbers to do with Iggy Azalea’s career.
It’s mostly a very easy listen, more a biography hung off a list of numbers than any real maths, but that might be your cup of tea. And Dr Fry’s segments do go into a little bit of depth about subjects like how the top 40 chart is calculated.
I’ll warn you now that each episode is an hour long, with a lot of music breaks. If you’re like me, your tolerance for some of the featured artists might not be sufficient to get through a whole episode in one go.
Since 2010, I’ve been maintaining a list of “interesting esoterica” – papers, books, essays and poems that I find interesting entirely on their own merits. It’s mainly bits of esoteric maths – hence the name – but I’ve also included quite a few things just because they have amusing titles. The main idea is that when I’m talking to someone and want to show them a cool thing that I’ve half-remembered, I can look up the exact reference: I’ve shared the paper “Orange peels and Fresnel integrals” more times than I can count (probably the same as the number of times I’ve eaten an orange).
Here are a few of the stories that we didn’t get round to covering in depth this month.
Turing’s Sunflowers Project – results
Manchester Science Festival’s mass-participation maths/gardening project, Turing’s Sunflowers, ran in 2012 and invited members of the public to grow their own sunflowers, and then photograph or bring in the seed heads so a group of mathematicians could study them. The aim was to determine whether Fibonacci numbers occur in the seed spirals – this has previously been observed, but no large-scale study like this has ever been undertaken. This carries on the work Alan Turing did before he died.
It quite quickly went viral, or as relatively viral as a maths game can get, with people tweeting their high scores and posting the link to reddit and Hacker News. I realised fairly soon that I should put in some stats tracking, to see if there were any interesting patterns in the data (and also to inflate my ego as the “games played” counter went up). I missed the first big spike in traffic, but on the 9th of March I wrote a script which saved a record of each game to a database.
The mad rush settled down quite quickly but there were still occasional spikes as different sites or people with lots of twitter followers found the game. Now, after two months, I’ve got data for just under 350,000 games. That’s a decent amount of information!