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Timetabling choreography with maths

Earlier this week my sister-in-law (“SIL” from now on) sent me an email asking for help. She’s a dance teacher, and her class need to rehearse their group pieces before their exam. She’d been trying to work out how to timetable the groups’ rehearsals, and couldn’t make it all fit together. So of course, she asked her friendly neighbourhood mathmo for help.

My initial reply was cheery and optimistic. It’s always good to let people think you know what you’re doing: much like one of Evel Knievel’s stunts, it makes you look even better on the occasions you succeed.

I’d half-remembered Katie’s friend’s Dad’s golf tournament problem and made a guess about the root of the difficulty she was having, but on closer inspection it wasn’t quite the same. I’m going to try to recount the process of coming up with an answer as it happened, with wrong turns and half-baked ideas included.

Cutting an oval pizza – video

As if there wasn’t enough maths/pizza news lately, the story has hit the red-tops recently that UK supermarkets are scamming consumers by offering them oval-shaped pizzas – marketed in the high-end/’Extra Special’ ranges, with more expensive (sounding) ingredients like mozzarella di bufala, roquito peppers and merguez sausage, and a distinctive pair of artisanally different radii. These pizzas apparently cost more per gram, because their elliptical shape means they’re actually smaller than a circle with the same diameter. Cue plenty of ‘costing you dough’ and ‘cheesed off’ puns.

While we’re not massively bothered by the pricing, the articles do raise, and then completely fail to address, an interesting point: an oval pizza is harder to cut into equally sized pieces! Luckily, maths is here to save the day. I found a nice method and made a video explaining how it works:

Take a look and improve your future pizza cutting technique!

Follow Women Friday: International Women’s Day 2017

As part of our series of ‘Follow Friday’ posts in which we suggest mathematical Twitter accounts you might like to follow, here’s a special International Women’s Day edition with some of our favourite mathematical women and related accounts. If you’d like the conversation in your feed to be less dominated by the Sausage Theorem, maybe consider adding a few to your lists. Put your own suggestions in the comments too!

Review: Hidden Figures

Mega-late to the party, I’ve now arrived back from a week lecturing in Indonesia and have found time to go and see the incredibly well-received and widely talked-about NASA women maths film, Hidden Figures. I’ve heard an incredible number of wildly positive responses to the film, from as long ago as January, and have been looking forward to it greatly.

The film is a painstaking and at times brutally realistic depiction of the struggles faced by African-Americans, and by women, during the era of the early space missions.