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Podcast: Episode 9 – Adrian Bowyer (part 1)

These are the show notes for episode 9 of the Travels in a Mathematical World Podcast. 9 is prime and excluding 1, for which the case is trivial, 9 is the smallest number which is equal to the sum of the digits of its square. More about the number 9 from

This week on the podcast is the first of two installments from Dr Adrian Bowyer, who talks through some of the areas his career has taken him into. You can find out more about Adrian from his homepage at the University of Bath, and Adrian has a Wikipedia page.

There is a reasonable introduction to stick/slip at Wikipedia. Adrian’s article in the Computer Journal (downloadble here but not free) proposed what became known as the Bowyer/Watson algorithm. Find out more about Geometric Modelling at Bath here. You can read an introduction to Boundary Representation here. Here is an applet which models Pólya’s Urn Experiment.

You can find out more about my work with the IMA by reading this blog and visiting

UPDATE 14/03/09: Obviously 9 is not prime. I’ve published a blog post highlighting my error: 9 is an experimental error.

Mathematics Today December: University Liaison Officer’s Report

The right lever to move the world

The new academic year has brought a mass of activity and potential opportunities. I am keen to spread the IMA message as widely as possible so thoughts turn to how my activities can be distributed to as many students as possible. So it is that I have begun several new initiatives.
Starting with the October issue, selected articles from Mathematics Today are distributed electronically to student groups with whom I have a contact or other student reps where no such group exists. These contacts will then redistribute the electronic Mathematics Today to students within their universities. This means that, perhaps as you read this, I will be reading through and picking a selection of articles from this copy of Mathematics Today that I think are of interest to students. Students will receive links to PDFs that are active for a limited period. I am also sending each student group a print copy of Mathematics Today for them to display at their events. The intention is that by receiving some of the content from Mathematics Today, students might begin to gain awareness of the IMA and the role it can play in their lives post-graduation. Certainly, we can hope that more students will be exposed to the IMA through this method than could be by my actions in person. And with the quality content in Mathematics Today we can be assured that the exposure will be meaningful as well as wide-reaching. If you would like students at your university to receive Mathematics Today please contact me at

A second activity I have begun is a podcast, Travels in a Mathematical World, which features mathematicians talking about their work and careers, as well as Maths History features from Noel-Ann Bradshaw of the University of Greenwich and Maths News roundups with Sarah Shepherd of iSquared Magazine. This has been running for a few weeks now and the response I have had so far has been positive with students I have spoken to keen to hear from ‘real life mathematicians’. At a Mathsoc event at the University of Greenwich I was approached by a student who said “I was listening to you this morning.” It took me a moment to realise what she meant! You can listen to episodes and download the podcast at Any promotion you can provide for this is most welcome.

Thirdly (and I won’t say “finally”!), my relationships with university mathematical societies continue to increase in number. Through a group I am calling Representatives of University Mathematical Societies (RUMS), I am able to keep in touch with students at a wide range of universities through a single contact at each. Universities that do not have such student groups often have a student representative on some staff-student liaison group and sometimes it is possible for this student to act as my point of contact, or simply another keen student. So RUMS membership now includes students from universities without mathematical societies. This group is a huge advantage to my interactions as the task of maintaining a current list of students would be impractical. And there is, I think, a clear advantage to the students themselves in already participating in the mathematical community. If you are in touch with a student group, or know your university doesn’t have one but can think of another student who may be able to help, please get in touch via

I have set up a new blog for the members of the RUMS group to post news from their activities and share ideas. As I travel I am made aware of the different groups who all have similar goals and are all running into the same issues and this blog is designed for groups to share this experience. Particularly, I meet new student groups and it is good to be able to point them to the blog for inspiration. In the Student Section this time I have collected a few snippets of news from the blog. The blog is available at

Activities Sept-Oct 2008

Last time I mentioned a questionnaire that I have distributed to universities through our network of IMA University Representatives and I am glad to say that responses have been coming in through this period. I have a 37% response rate with questionnaires returned from 27 universities.

During September I 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 together. 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. Lastly, I attended the LMS Popular Lectures 2008 and grabbed 5 minutes with the Co-Chair of the Mathsoc at Birmingham and I am happy to report they are now successful University Liaison Grant applicants.

In October, I visited the University of Leicester and met with the enthusiastic bunch who are the committee for the student group there. Those who enjoy a bit of wordplay will enjoy the name: Student Union Maths Society (SUMS).

Next came my small part in following the New Unified Mathematics Society tour. I visited Newcastle, York, Leeds, Warwick and my home city of Nottingham with the Presidents of the IMA and LMS, David Abrahams and Brian Davies, respectively. It was really useful to go to universities I have not yet had the chance to visit and I have made some useful contacts there. I took the opportunity to catch up with the Mathsoc at Newcastle, who have recently made their second successful University Liaison Grant application and the more maths grads regional base in Leeds.

I visited the University of Greenwich for a talk organised by the MathSoc there on “Thinking Mathematically” by John Mason. Noel-Ann Bradshaw of the University of Greenwich is looking to organise a grouping of London Universities who can look to cross-promote events and I stopped on my way across London to meet the President of the Maths Society at Imperial College.

Finally I rounded off the month in Manchester, where I attended a mathematics specific careers event, “Calculating Careers”. I operated a stall at this with a mixture of careers advice, IMA materials and last but certainly not least a set of puzzles. This did lead to an afternoon of me calling out to passing students:”Fancy playing a game?” but it also led to all those students going home with a “Maths Matters” postcard from the Maths Careers website ( and a copy of the Mathematics Today article Careers for Mathematicians1 under their arms, and hopefully some raised awareness of the IMA. I was told afterwards that my stall had seen the most activity at the fair so there is something to be said for baiting mathematicians with intellectual curiosities!

You can find out more about the University Liaison initiative by visiting the IMA Student page or reading my blog, both via:


1. BRIAULT, S., 2008. Careers for Mathematicians. Mathematics Today, 44(3), pp. 117-118.

Podcast: Episode 8 – Maths news with Sarah Shepherd

These are the shownotes for episode 8 of the Travels in a Mathematical World Podcast. Excluding 1, for which the case is trivial, 8 is the smallest number which is equal to the sum of the digits of its cube. More facts about the number 8 from

This week is maths news week on the podcast, I visited Sarah Shepherd, a PhD student at the University of Nottingham and editor of iSquared Magazine and we talked through some maths stories that have been in the news. Links to all the articles we mentioned are below.

Professor Stephen Hawking is to retire from his position as Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge University after 30 years in October 2009. You can read this story, “Stephen Hawking to retire as Cambridge’s Professor of Mathematics” at the Telegraph.

There was a question in the Guardian from a mathematics graduate looking for careers advice. You can read the relevant “Dr Work” column at the Guardian.

In December, the mathematician and popularisor of mathematics, Marcus du Sautoy will take up Oxford University’s prestigious Simonyi Professorship for the Public Understanding of Science. Read “Popular face of maths to succeed godless Dawkins” at the Guardian.

Maths Inspiration got an outing on the BBC’s Breakfast programme. You can, at present, view the report on the BBC website. Also on the BBC this month mathematics got an outing on the Qi programme. You can read more about this, and about Russell, in an earlier blog posting. You can, of course, make a donation to Children in Need.

Bletchley Park has received a grant from English Heritage. Read “Bletchley Park saved for posterity” at the Guardian. You can make a donation to Bletchley Park.

The Further Maths Network and Rolls-Royce plc have announced a poster competition for undergraduate or PGCE mathematics students, individually or in groups. The poster should convey the essence of a mathematical topic that has been covered at university by the designer to school and college students studying AS or A level Mathematics. They will award a prize of £100 to each of 2 winning posters and the winning posters will be printed and sent to potentially over 2000 schools and colleges. The closing date is 31 March 2009 and more information can be found at the Further Maths Network website.

The Observor published an extract from “Outliers: The Story of Success” by Malcolm Gladwell, which explores the differences in the language of numerical constructs. Read “Why Asian children are better at maths” at the Observor.

IMA Prize Giving at King’s

King's Building, King's College, London
Today I attended Prize Giving at King’s College, London (pictured above). I was invited to attend as the IMA was giving two prizes to mathematics students. One of the students, Janine Walker (pictured below), was in attendance and I was able to meet her and her family afterward the ceremony.

Universities that offer mathematics are able to offer IMA Prizes, generally to two of their graduating students at their discretion. These are often given out based on academic excellence – to the student with the top marks in exams, a project or overall. The Prize is a years membership of the IMA, although I believe it could offer far more to the student terms of prestige. My information suggests the IMA Prizes are offered at something like 74 universities, which is a lot Prizes but relative to the number of graduating mathematics students (something like 5000) this is a small number of graduates with this accolade. The correct wording on a CV could, I believe, produce a very positive effect.

Practice for awarding IMA Prizes varies; at King’s there was an Awards Ceremony (seperate from Graduation) of 45 minutes in which a range of Prizes in Engineering, Computer Science, Mathematics and Physics were awarded. This was preceded by a tea and coffee reception and followed by a wine and nibbles reception.

Janine Walker and Peter Rowlett, Prize Giving, King's College, London

9th Younger Mathematicians Conference

I attended the 9th IMA Younger Mathematicians Conference last week in London.

De Morgan House, London
The Younger Mathematicians Conferences attract Mathematicians under 35 (and a few over to be honest – passports aren’t checked at the door!) from around the UK who are studying and working in Universities, Schools and in many sectors of Industry.

This time the Conference heard from mathematicians working in Mathematical Finance and topics such as the maths of Google, the restoration of the Cutty Sark and much more. And it was a great opportunity for mathematics students and early career mathematicians to get together and meet others in similar situations. I have met several undergraduates at Younger Mathematicians Conferences in 2008.

The 2009 Younger Mathematicians Conferences will be on Saturday 16th May 2009 in Oxford and Saturday 14th November 2009 in Birmingham. More information on the IMA Student webpage.

Quite interesting

On the Children in Need special episode of Qi one of the topics covered was Bertrand Russell‘s work on Principia Mathematica and particularly the proof that 1+1=2. Although a lot of the discussion was frivolous, it did contain some nice comments (the proof described as “an extraordinary achievment” and Russell described as “a remarkable man” and “one of the greatest and most towering intellectual heroes you could ever worship” by Stephen Fry, who I have heard people refer to in similar terms himself). And it contained this wonderful rant from David Mitchell, on the subject of proving 1+1=2:

It’s a bit late, the 20th C., to prove that, I’d say. You’ve got quite a lot riding, by the 20th C., on 1+1 being 2. There’s quite a lot of engineering happening, quite a complex international economy. If you find out that it doesn’t equal two, what do we do? Just burn everything because God knows, anything could fall on our heads, money – you might as well eat it, forget civilisation!

You can view this episode temporarily on the BBC iPlayer (I’d recommend the whole show but if it’s not to your tastes the maths bit starts about 23 minutes in). And you can make a donation to Children in Need here if you didn’t get a chance yet. Happily, they Pudsey himself travelled to Nottingham Railway Station on Friday morning so I was able to throw some change in his bucket. I was on my way to London so he needn’t have bothered, really, he could have met me at St. Pancras.