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London Mathematical Society launches Mathematical Sciences Directory

LMS MSDirectory entry

The London Mathematical Society yesterday launched its Mathematical Sciences Directory (LMS MSDirectory), a directory of mathematical scientists in the UK. Entries include some personal information, academic networks and social media, current employment and information on education/qualifications. Yes, it’s yet another place to list all this information.

The LMS website suggests a set of benefits for being on the list, including networking with others in UK mathematical sciences and the opportunity to contribute data anonymously to projects such as the Mathematical Sciences People Pipeline, which are used “to make representation to national policy-makers regarding the mathematical sciences”.

Those eligible to be listed include people with a maths degree from a UK institution, those currently working in mathematical sciences in the UK with or without a maths degree, and current students. You don’t have to be an LMS member to be on the list. The FAQ suggests the list was initially populated with data from “over 5,000 mathematicians” (though some may have opted-out before launch – they first emailed me in March asking me to check my data or opt-out) and people can opt to join.

More information

Further details and information on how to join the list from the LMS.

News of some significance

You may have heard of the replicability crisis in science, and practices like outcome switching and p-hacking. BuzzFeed reports on a paper that proposes a solution: rather than assign statistical significance at $p=0.05$, change this value to $0.005$.

Sir David Spiegelhalter is quoted saying: “Dealing with the size of the p-value fixes some things. But it’s not dealing with the most important issues.” There’s a lot more in the BuzzFeed article and the full paper.

More information

PsyArXiv preprint: Redefine statistical significance.

BuzzFeed: These People Are Trying To Fix A Huge Problem In Science.

ShareLaTeX and Overleaf are merging

Overleaf and ShareTeX logos

Once upon a time (2011), there launched an online LaTeX editor called ShareLaTeX. The very next year, there launched an online LaTeX editor called writeLaTeX. In 2015, writeLaTeX rebranded as Overleaf. Both Overleaf and ShareLaTeX offer browser-based LaTeX editing. Think of it like Google Docs for LaTeX. Both operate under a freemium model. If you use one of them, know that the other is fairly similar. If (like me) you were vaguely aware that there was an online LaTeX editor out there without using it, it was probably one of these or the other (or, I’m pretty sure, both at different times). Though note that these are not the only browser-based LaTeX editors – a native operating system ‘B’ means browser-based in this Wikipedia list of TeX editors and there are currently ten Bs in the list.

Recently, Overleaf fully acquired ShareLaTeX (Scribtex Limited) and plans to integrate the two products into one. The announcement says everyone from both teams will continue to be involved. The announcement contains more detail, a FAQ list and the following explanation.

What does this mean for you as an Overleaf or ShareLaTeX user? No worries! You won’t see any big change in the near future. Both services you know and love will continue to serve you as you have come to expect and be supported by the combined Overleaf and ShareLaTeX team. Over the coming months, we will be working on merging Overleaf and ShareLaTeX together into a single service. We aim to make the transition as smooth as possible. As we develop the combined service, we are actively seeking your feedback and input, starting with this survey. Ideally the only differences you will notice are the improvements to the editor you are currently using.

More information

Exciting News — ShareLaTeX is joining Overleaf on the Overleaf Blog.

Also: ShareLaTeX Joins Overleaf on the ShareLaTeX Blog, which appears to be the same text.

Via Emma Cliffe on Twitter.

Fun with microbiology: Virus, the Beauty of the Beast

Hamish Todd offers Virus, the Beauty of the Beast, an interactive documentary about viruses. Viruses have protein shells made of patterns which can be explored mathematically, and this link to tiling theory and geometric shapes provides a mathematical interest for the piece.

Hamish is a former game designer, former teacher turned PhD student in computational biology. He says:

While studying maths I had learned about viruses, and about their connection to Islamic art, which amazed me. I found it staggering that such beautiful things could surround us without most people being aware of it. I wanted to let people see it, and I knew that my game design skills could help me do that.

Apparently many viruses are arranged on what Hamish calls a ‘hexagons and pentagons’ structure (Caspar-Klug theory), and others have more exotic structures. Wikipedia says “most animal viruses are icosahedral or near-spherical with chiral icosahedral symmetry”, with other more complicated shapes also found.

As well as “interactive documentary”, Hamish calls the website an ‘explorable explanation’, which aims “to let laypeople play with the beautiful things that mathematicians and scientists spend their time with”. Overall, it seems like a nicely-produced series of interactive videos exploring an interesting topic. Give it a go!

More information

Virus, the Beauty of the Beast, the interactive documentary.

Virus, the Beauty of the Beast press pack.

A symmetry approach to viruses, an article at Plus.

Mathematical genius: extrapolate from your own experience?

The BBC biography series Great Lives covered in its most recent episode Srinivasa Ramanujan. In the closing minutes of the programme, host Matthew Paris said this, which I found quite interesting (or at least, interestingly expressed):

I’m so far from understanding the mind of a mathematical genius that it’s simply inconceivable that you could tell a person an apparently random number and he could intuit or deduce the kind of fact that he deduced about that taxi license number. I mean, I can’t run a four-minute mile, but I once ran a five-minute mile, and I can extrapolate from my own experience, in a way understand how someone might just be a lot better than me at something that, in an inferior way, I can also do. But Ramanujan isn’t like that. It’s as though this man were a different species, not just a superior example of the same species. Can you learn to do this kind of thing? Could I, if I had applied myself? Or is it that goddess again, is it really just genius?

Answers on a postcard!