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EE = maths × sums²

EE Stills-10

Countdown number-nerd Lovely Rachel Riley has appeared in the latest advert for mobile phone agglomerate EE, alongside massive film node Kevin Bacon.

In the advert, Riley is unable to work out how anyone could not be enticed by the high mobile internet speeds (50% faster, apparently) offered by the company who are paying her to not be able to do so, and this is illustrated by a whole board full of equations and numbers which don’t seem to come to anything. Or do they?

Rodents of Unusual Size? I don’t think they exist

A man in London claims to have found a rat ‘the size of a small child’, near a children’s play area in Hackney, London. Alongside a photograph of gas engineer Tony Smith proudly displaying the gigantic creature held in the jaws of a litter picking stick, some news outlets have reported the claim that the rat was “about four foot long”.

Photograph: Tony Smith/SWNS

Photograph: Tony Smith/SWNS

Luckily, mathematicians are here to save the day! Firstly, there’s no way it’s four feet long, as this rigorous analysis shows – estimating the height of the man as 180cm, and using the respective lengths of two of his visible fingers and the width of the litter picker at each end to estimate the effect of perspective:

Furthermore, several other people have successfully managed to recreate the effect of holding something relatively small up in a photo, putting it nearer the camera, and making it look much bigger, including The Guardian’s new formats editor Martin Belam, and in one brilliant case, an employee of Hackney council:

The message to the maths outreach community is that if we try really, really hard, we should eventually be able to get people to understand the thing where closer objects look bigger, although it may take more staring at model cows and pointing at cows out the window than was previously hoped.

More Information

Giant rat ‘the size of a small child’ found near Hackney playground, in the London Evening Standard

How to fake a giant rat (and why you shouldn’t trust pictures on the internet), on The Guardian

Hackney council made a wonderful response to that ‘rat as big as a 4-year-old’ story, at The Poke

Christopher Zeeman has died

Sir Christopher at the Warwick Mathematics Institute in December 2009. Photo by Nicholas Jackson.

Sir Christopher at the Warwick Mathematics Institute in December 2009. Photo by Nicholas Jackson.

Last weekend mathematician Sir Erik Christopher Zeeman passed away. A giant of mathematics research, he worked in geometry, topology, knot theory and singularity theory, and was also a great populariser of mathematics. He gave the Royal Institution Christmas Lectures in 1978 – not only was this the first time the lectures had been on the subject of mathematics, it was also the start of the Ri’s Mathematics Masterclass series which still runs all over the UK.

He was the 63rd president of the London Mathematical Society (1986-88) and founded the Mathematics Department and Mathematics Research Centre at the then-new University of Warwick in 1964. Zeeman was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1975, and was awarded the Society’s Faraday Medal in 1988. Zeeman was a hugely popular lecturer, and supervised nearly 30 doctoral students.

In September 2006, the LMS and IMA awarded him the David Crighton medal for his long and distinguished service to mathematics and the mathematical community. The LMS/IMA’s Christopher Zeeman Medal for Communication of Mathematics is awarded in his honour.

He will be sadly missed.

via @SusanMOakes on Twitter

More information

Sir Christopher Zeeman FRS (1925-2016), on the Warwick Mathematics Institute website