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Being a Professional Mathematician — now available as a podcast

When I worked for the MSOR Network under the National HE STEM Programme, we funded a project called Being a Professional Mathematician which was run by Tony Mann (University of Greenwich) and Chris Good (University of Birmingham). This included the production of a set of audio interviews with mathematicians about their work and historians about historical mathematicians. This audio is now available to listen to in podcast format.

Get the Being a Professional Mathematician podcast in RSS format.

Get the Being a Professional Mathematician podcast on iTunes.

The wider project includes resources and suggestions for using this audio in teaching undergraduates, inclunding the booklet Being a Professional Mathematician.


Mathematical myths, legends and inaccuracies: some examples

I’m teaching a first-year module on the history of mathematics for undergraduate mathematicians this term. In this, I’m less concerned about students learning historical facts and more that they gain a general awareness of history of maths while learning about the methods used to study history.

Last week, I decided I would discuss myths and inaccuracies. Though I am aware of a few well-known examples, I was struggling to find a nice, concise debunking of one. I asked on Twitter for examples, and here are the suggestions I received, followed by what I did.

Analytical Engine, Lovelace & Babbage LEGO Ideas proposal needs support

Analytic Engine LEGO set

LEGO have a system where people can propose new LEGO sets. If they get 10,000 supporters, they will be reviewed by LEGO. If LEGO like the idea, it may become an actual set they sell (and the person who proposed the idea benefits with 1% of net sales and other rewards).

Anyway, Stewart Lamb Cromar (an e-learning chap at University of Edinburgh) has proposed a set based on the Analytical Engine and featuring Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage minifigures (including, apparently, spanners). An idea has to get 1,000 supporters in its first year or it will expire; this one has passed that bar in less than two months and has over 2,600 supporters at time of writing.

Anyway, I think it looks quite cool. To support it is free, though you have to sign up for a LEGO ID and answer a short survey: ‘What would you expect this product to cost (USD)?’, ‘How many do you think most people would buy?’, ‘Who do you think this project would be good for?’ and ‘How difficult would you say this project would be to build?’. It only took a couple of minutes (I was supporter no. 2604).

Expect more Ada Lovelace this year as it’s the 200th anniversary of her birth on 10th December. For example, on 17th September at 9pm BBC Four is showing a documentary by Hannah Fry: Calculating Ada: The Countess of Computing.

More information

Lovelace & Babbage at LEGO Ideas.

Via Alice Ballard ReTweeting @LegoLovelace on Twitter.

Maths helps maths graduates get professional jobs

The Destination of Leavers of Higher Education (DLHE, pronounced ‘deli’) survey sends a questionnaire to all UK university graduates six months after graduation and this gives some idea of what happens to students once they graduate. It is flawed, but has a high response rate and is an interesting tool.

There is a second type of DLHE survey, which is longitudinal. This surveys graduates 3.5 years after graduation, and the 2010/11 longitudinal data has just been released. This deserves some investigation and I don’t have time right now, but I did notice a couple of tables that make me proud of my subject.