You're reading: Columns

New Unified Mathematical Society

Over the past two weeks I have hectically followed the Presidents of the IMA and the LMS on a tour of several universities connected to the proposal for the formation of a new mathematical society. I should say my involvement has been nothing compared to the Presidents, who have visits more universities than I, have three more weeks to go and have to actually lead discussions at these universities where I don’t. It is a staggering undertaking for them.

My first trip was last week when I visited the univerisites of Newcastle, York and Leeds. This is a lovely part of the world and the approach to Newcastle by train was stunning despite heavy rain. Below are pictures from Newcastle by night, the mathematics department at Leeds and the Presidents answering questions in York.

Gateshead Millennium Bridge
University of York Department of Mathematics
Presidents answering questions
This week I visited the University of Warwick (pictured below) and attended a seminar by David Abrahams, the President of the IMA, followed by the proposal talk and discussion. Then yesterday I attended my local meeting at the University of Nottingham.

Warwick Mathematical Institute
It is interesting to meet so many members of both organisations and to see some parts of the country which I haven’t previously been to. I have used the opportunity to meet with or get contact details for various university mathematical societies and with more maths grads in Leeds. You can find out more about the proposal at the New Unified Mathematical Society website, as well as some of the questions that have come up on the tour as frequently asked questions.

Podcast: Episode 3 – Dr. Joanna Hartley, Public Transport Modelling

These are the show notes for episode 3 of the Travels in a Mathematical World podcast. 3 is prime and the only number which is equal to the sum of all the natural numbers less than it. More facts about number 3 from numbergossip.com.

I was returning home from a trip to Birmingham, when a screen on a Nottingham bus presented me with the following information: Nottingham City Transport runs 320 buses on 67 routes, making 35,602 trips, totalling 236,000 miles every week. As you might imagine, this is a fairly complicated network to model.

In this episode of the podcast, Dr. Joanna Hartley of Nottingham Trent University talks about her career from leaving university and the work she has done with Nottingham City Transport on public transport modelling. If you are interest in shortest path problems, a good overview is available on wikipedia. If you are interested in modelling public transport data, there is an article in plus magazine on Travel-time maps.

You can find out more about my work with the IMA by reading this blog and visiting www.ima.org.uk/student.

Somewhere between 78 and 120 people are listening (possibly)

I am delighted to report that the first episode of the Travels in a Mathematical World podcast was released a week ago and has been downloaded 120 times by 78 unique IP addresses in the first week (one of which was me). Turning web hit logs into number of real people is a black art – two people on the same modem might register as the same IP address, while one person at work and home will register as two. One person might download it and pass it around, which won’t register at the server. Web crawlers count at a visitor even though nobody’s watching. I noticed if you share the mp3 on Facebook, Facebook seems to cache it so you only get one hit no matter how many people play it. And the problems don’t stop there. So the real number is likely to be somewhere between 78 and 120, or, frankly, any other number whatsoever. Still the numbers suggest an encouraging start for my little endeavour. Yey!

Podcast: Episode 2 – Noel-Ann Bradshaw, Newton and Leibniz

These are the show notes for episode 2 of the Travels in a Mathematical World podcast. 2 is prime, the only even prime number. More facts about number 2 from thesaurus.maths.org.

In the first of our Maths History series, Noel-Ann Bradshaw of the University of Greenwich and also Meetings Co-ordinator of the British Society for the History of Mathematics talks through a little of the history around Isaac Newton and Gottfried von Leibniz. If you’re interested in this topic, you might try reading Wikipedia on the Leibniz and Newton calculus controversy and there is much more on Newton at the Newton Project.

You can find out more about my work with the IMA by reading this blog and visiting www.ima.org.uk/student.

The picture below is of an Isaac Newton sundial I stumbled upon at the University of Leicester earlier in the week.

Isaac Newton sundial

Enigmatic SUMS in Leicester

Yesterday I spent an afternoon in Leicester. I visited the University of Leicester and met with the Student Union Maths Society (SUMS) group in the new David Wilson Library. They are an enthusiastic bunch and we had a good meeting discussing their plans for the group and how the IMA can help.

Leicester Library
I then walked a pleasant walk along New Walk between the University of Leicester and De Montfort University. It was a very wet day but there were plenty of people out and walking; the whole walk had a really nice atmosphere.

New Walk
At De Montfort, I attended the IMA East Midlands Branch talk on “Enigma, Bletchley Park & The Battle of the Atlantic” by Dr Mark Baldwin. This was apparently the 251st time Dr Baldwin had given this talk but he was enthusiastic and entertaining nonetheless. I was hoping to share a picture of his Enigma machine, but the crowd having a go with it was too deep! You can find out more about Enigma and see pictures at Wikipedia, and worth a visit is Bletchley Park.

Queens Building, De Montfort

Podcast: Episode 1 – Professor Philip Maini, Oxford – Maths Biology

These are the show notes for episode 1 of the Travels in a Mathematical World podcast. 1 is the multiplicative identity. More facts about the number 1 from thesaurus.maths.org.

In this episode, Professor Philip Maini of the Centre for Mathematical Biology, University of Oxford, talks about the field of mathematical biology. On his website, I’d recommend you take a look at his “Research Gallery” (link at the top of the page) for more about his work.

If this has piqued your interest, you can read a story about animal patterning and find other mathematical biology articles at plus, the online maths magazine. If you’re really interested, the IMA publishes a journal, Mathematical Medicine and Biology.

You can find out more about my work with the IMA by reading this blog and visiting www.ima.org.uk/student.

Back and forth to Birmingham

University of Birmingham
Over the past few weeks I have made several trips to Birmingham. First, I met with the IMA’s new liaison with the Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services (AGCAS), Julie Hepburn from the Cardiff University Careers Service. We had a chat about what AGCAS and the IMA can do, and about the careers advice offered to mathematics students in universities, particularly the commonly used leaflet: “Options with mathematics.”

I’ve also visited the more maths grads project, who do some great work in mathematics enrichment at school level. We are exploring ways we can work together in areas we overlap, particularly on careers advice. Of course, a good site for careers advice is the MathsCareers website.

Lastly, I visited Birmingham to attend the LMS Popular Lectures 2008. The first of these was by Dr Tadashi Tokieda of Trinity Hall, University of Cambridge on spin in toy models, which was a very entertaining talk with some fun live demonstrations. I couldn’t stay for the whole of the second talk, which was on the mathematics of viruses by Dr Reidun Twarock of University of York called “Know your enemy – viruses under the mathematical microscope.”

I also took the opportunity to grab 5 minutes with the Co-Chair of the Birmingham undergraduate Maths Society to talk about what the IMA does and how we can work together.

Incidentally, the University of Birmingham has its own train station. Not only is this good news as there is a direct train to there from Nottingham a couple of times a day but it also provides a good image for my experience of travelling the country by train visiting universities:

University railway station

Univeristy railway station sign