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Doctor Who and the Quaternions – the LMS’ 150th birthday party

(A report by Richard Elwes from the launch of the London Mathematical Society’s 150th birthday year. All the talks are available to watch online at the LMS’ birthday portal)

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There’s a standard format for celebrating a mathematical milestone, perhaps the 80th birthday of some deeply eminent number theorist. His collaborators and graduate students, and their graduate students, and their graduate students all gather together in some gorgeous location to regale each other with their latest theorems, while the rest of the world pays no attention. For the London Mathematical Society’s birthday, we had something different. Well, we did have the gorgeous location. The Goldsmiths’ hall in London is a magnificent venue, and the livery hall in particular was evidently designed by someone with a peculiar fondness for Element 79. (See for yourself.) But speaker-wise, a decision had obviously been taken that the party would be an outward-looking affair. The focus was not so much on the LMS, or even on maths per se, but on our subject’s ability to unlock worlds, particularly the worlds of TV, film, and computer games.

Watch out! I’m a blue whale and I’m about to land on you!

whale

I don’t know why this question popped into my head, but it’s been sitting there for the past week and showing no signs of moving on.

Suppose an enemy of mine threw a friendly blue whale at me. Being a friendly whale, it makes the blue-whale-noise equivalent of “DUCK!” to warn me it’s coming.

How quickly does the whale need to be travelling for its warning to be useful?

Apparently I’m not a maths genius (or, On the Subject of Parcel Sizes)

This article on BBC News caught my eye because it has “maths” in the headline. Yes, I’m that easily pleased.

Somewhere in the middle, it says that myHermes requires the “volumetric area” of a parcel to be less than 225cm. That’s right: the “volumetric area” is neither a volume nor an area but a length. Anyway, the formula for volumetric area of a package with sides $a,b,c$, where $a \leq b \leq c$, is

\[ 2(a+b) + c \]

(Importantly, $a$ and $b$ are always the two shortest sides of the package)

So the constraint is

\[ 2(a+b) + c \leq 225 \]

In the next paragraph is the puzzling statement that the maximum allowable volume for a package is $82.68$ litres, or $82680$ cm3. How did they get that?

I decided to do some calculus of variations, or whatever it’s called.

Oh, Stephen

hawking penalty formula

“It is hugely complicated. In fact, compared to football I think Quantum Physics is relatively straightforward.”
– Professor Stephen Hawking

Even you, Stephen?

If you pick up basically any newspaper in Ireland or the UK today, you’ll probably find a story about Professor Stephen Hawking’s “formula for World Cup success”. At first glance, it doesn’t look good: The World’s Most Famous Scientist appears finally to have succumbed to the temptation of nonsense formula publicity.

Aperiodical Round Up 10: a rathole down which valuable mathematical effort is being poured

V0025329 A middle-aged man giving a geometry lesson to young woman, a

Ten! TEN! TEN! Incredible. David Cushing asked me a very good question once: what have you done between five and ten times (inclusive)? Well, this is the last time ‘Writing an Aperiodical Round Up’ will be in the same category as ‘getting a new wallet’ and ‘saying hello to Peter Beardsley’.

Hello, my name’s Christian Perfect and, more often than an unbiased observer would expect, I find odd maths things on the internet.