You're reading: Irregulars

What I did on my holidays, by Colin (aged 35 and a bit)

We’re all back from the big MathsJam weekend. We’ve got loads of material which we’ll start putting up once we’ve recovered our energies. Meanwhile, Colin Beveridge has sent in his report of the event.

Last weekend – as I’m sure all Aperiodical readers know – was the MathsJam annual gathering in Cheshire.

Now, I’ve always hated conferences. Loathed the bloody things. I resented travelling to them, resented preparing talks, resented the uncomfortable beds, the politics, the enforced niceness. I resented the nod-along-and-pretend-you-understand, the gabble-away-with-your-head-down-so-you-can-say-you-gave-a-talk, the questions-for-the-sake-of-advancing-pet-theories, the sessions that lasted weeks. I resented the trying-to-find-veggie-food-in-New-Orleans, the being-expected-to-show-up-for-everything, the having-to-keep-receipts, all of it.

I could have just stayed at my desk and played Tetris. But MathsJam is different.

Robert Schneider, Mathematical Musician/Musical Mathematician

(This article is based on an interview that was originally conducted for the podcast Relatively Prime)

Robert Schneider is a rock star mathematician. I do not mean that in the metaphorical sense, as when it is applied, with a rather unmathematical lack of precision, to celebrity mathematicians such as Terry Tao, Cedric Villani, or Timothy Gowers. I mean it in the most literal sense: Robert Schneider is a mathematician and Robert Schneider is a rock star.

Relatively Prime, All in a Name

“Prime. Prime? Prime! Prime factors, twin primes, pseudo-primes? No, no no. Relatively Prime? Yes, Relatively Prime.”

I have a problem, no matter how good an idea I have I can not start to work on it until I have a name. Some names are easy, Combination and Permutations was a name well before I ever had a show to use it, Science Sparring Society followed directly from the concept, and ACMEScience NEWS NOW actually told me what type of show I would be making. Other names are hard.

I had the underlying idea for Relatively Prime (get the first episode here) in an extreme bout of egotism and delusion of grandeur where I spent too long listening to Radio Lab, This American Life, and Snap Judgment and began to think, “Hey, I could do that, but for math.”

The Mathematician’s Shirts

Patches ready to sew

Patches ready to sew

The shirt symbolizes the formality of a male-dominated society and of conformance to society’s rules. Mathematics, too, is a realm of formality and rules populated largely by men. Yet in both shirts and mathematics there is room for creativity and individuality.

In The Mathematician’s Shirt project, artist Madeleine Shepherd and mathematician Julia Collins set about challenging these notions by turning a collection of formal shirts (donated by mathematicians!) into mathematical art. Inspired by the work of mathematicians in Edinburgh, the fabric of the shirts got twisted into 4-dimensional shapes, woven into knots and stitched into different geometries.

The Super Subtraction Feat


How I Unofficially Broke The World Record That Never Was

One of the 70-digit subtraction sums I did for training purposes.

In April, a gentleman called B. Sai Kiran became, briefly, internet-famous for doing arithmetic. In Hyderabad, he subtracted a 70-digit number from another in the barest smidgen over a minute – 60.05 seconds, at the second attempt.

Ask a mathematician: “Where should we live?”

Dear Mathematician,

My partner and I are trying to buy a house. We both work in different places, and neither of us enjoys commuting. How could we decide where to live?

Fictionally yours,

Norman Mettrick


Thank you for your intriguing and entirely imaginary letter. The short and not terribly useful answer would be: