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George Boole statue to be erected in Lincoln

It was George Boole’s bicentenary in 2015, so the Heslam Trust is a bit slow to reveal its plans to erect a statue of the great man in his home town of Lincoln.

The sculptors, Martin Jennings and Antony Dufort, have come up with a few designs for the statue, and they’d like the public to vote for their favourite.

There’s already a bust of Boole in University College, Cork, installed in plenty of time for the bicentenary. Here’s a picture of me and HRH Poppy Dog standing next to it, last Summer.

More information

Lincoln maths genius to get statue in city – and here are the designs at LincolnshireLive

Proposals for George Boole monument on the City of Lincoln council website

View the proposals and vote

Hans Rosling and Raymond Smullyan have died

Why should I worry about dying? It’s not going to happen in my lifetime!

Raymond Smullyan, This Book Needs No Title (1986)

This week, the mathematical community has lost not one but two of its most beloved practitioners. Earlier this week, Swedish statistician Hans Rosling passed away aged 68, and today it’s been announced that author and logician Raymond Smullyan has also died, aged 97.

Graph Isomorphism panto: oh no it isn’t; oh yes it is!

As we reported back in November 2015, László Babai came up with an algorithm to decide if two graphs are isomorphic in quasipolynomial time. At the time, this proof still needed peer review, and in the last week or so, two big developments have occurred on that front.

On Wednesday 4th January, an error was discovered in the proof. Harald Helfgott (of the University of Göttingen in Germany and France’s National Center for Scientific Research), who studied the paper for several months, discovered that the algorithm was not quasipolynomial ($\displaystyle{ 2^{\mathrm{O}((\log n)^{c})} }$ for some fixed $c>0$) as claimed, but merely subexponenential: growing faster than a polynomial but still significantly slower than exponential growth).

Adorably, Babai posted this message on his website:

I apologize to those who were drawn to my lectures on this subject solely because of the quasipolynomial claim, prematurely magnified on the internet in spite of my disclaimers. I believe those looking for an interesting combination of group theory, combinatorics, and algorithms need not feel disappointed.

But maths is all about the drama, so on Monday 9th January Babai announced a fix for the error, and it’s now back on the quasipolynomial table. This has now been confirmed (as of 14th Jan) by Harald Helfgott himself at the Bourbaki seminar in Paris. Amusingly, Helfgott had only been studying the paper in such detail in order to give the seminar, and it was this close scrutiny which allowed him to discover the mistake.

More information

Announcement on Babai’s website

Fixing the UPCC Case of Split-or-Johnson – Babai’s paper detailing the fix (PDF)

Graph Isomorphism Vanquished — Again, at Quanta Magazine

Bourbaki Seminar – Harald Helfgott, on YouTube

Particularly mathematical New Year Honours 2017

Usually at this time of year, I have a look through the New Year Honours list for particularly mathematical appointments. Here are the names I’ve found that are particularly mathematical.

  • Tricia Dodd, Chief Methodology Officer, UK Statistics Authority, appointed MBE “for services to Statistics and Research”.
  • Dave Watson, director of IBM Research in the UK, who apparently has a focus on big data, appointed CBE “for services to Science and Engineering Research”.
  • Maggie Philbin, appointed OBE “for services to Promoting careers in STEM and Creative Industries”.
  • Anne-Marie Imafidon, co-founder and CEO of Stemettes, appointed MBE “for services to Young Women within STEM Sectors”.

I think every time I have done this (for New Year and Birthday Honours since 2013), there has been at least one person on the list, and usually several, specifically included for services to mathematics or mathematics education. This time, this is not the case, though there is one mention of statistics.

Are there any others I’ve missed? Please add any of interest in the comments below. A full list may be obtained from the UK Government website.

Relatively Prime is back!

Aperiodipal numero uno Samuel Hansen’s acclaimed podcast series Relatively Prime is back, on a new monthly schedule, with an episode about how PhD student Ibrahim Sharif designed a lottery to award licences to sell cannabis in the state of Washington.

When the stakes are so high (geddit?! – Ed.) you have to be really sure that your lottery is fair. That’s where a lot of fun maths comes in.

You can listen to Lottery Daze on Sam intends to fund this new incarnation of Relatively Prime through Patreon – you can pledge to pay Sam a certain amount (starting at a dollar) for every episode he releases, with perks for paying more such as a postcard from Sam or placing an ad in one of the episodes.

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