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Wikiquote edit-a-thon – Saturday, May 12th, 2018

TL;DR: We’re holding a distributed Wikipedia edit-a-thon on Saturday, May 12th, 2018 from 10am to improve the visibility of women mathematicians on the Wikiquotes Mathematics page. Join in from wherever you are! Details below, and in this Google Doc.


Extension and abstraction without apparent direction or purpose is fundamental to the discipline. Applicability is not the reason we work, and plenty that is not applicable contributes to the beauty and magnificence of our subject.
– Peter Rowlett, “The unplanned impact of mathematics”, Nature 475, 2011, pp. 166-169.

Trying to solve real-world problems, researchers often discover that the tools they need were developed years, decades or even centuries earlier by mathematicians with no prospect of, or care for, applicability.
– Peter Rowlett, “The unplanned impact of mathematics”, Nature 475, 2011, pp. 166-169.

There is no way to guarantee in advance what pure mathematics will later find application. We can only let the process of curiosity and abstraction take place, let mathematicians obsessively take results to their logical extremes, leaving relevance far behind, and wait to see which topics turn out to be extremely useful. If not, when the challenges of the future arrive, we won’t have the right piece of seemingly pointless mathematics to hand.
Peter Rowlett, “The unplanned impact of mathematics”, Nature 475, 2011, pp. 166-169.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I have every admiration for Peter and his work; his is a thoughtful voice of reason, and it’s not at all unreasonable for the Wikiquote page on mathematics to cite his writing.

LMS Meeting in honour of Maryam Mirzakhani

Mirzakhani in 2014

The London Mathematical Society are organising an event later this month in honour of the late Fields Medalist Maryam Mirzakhani. It's at the University of Warwick on 22nd March, and will include talks outlining some of Mirzakhani's work, followed by a drinks reception and dinner. The event is part of a larger EPSRC symposium on Teichmüller dynamics.

More information and registration

Black Mathematician Month: Closing Ceremony

Below is an article marking the end of Black Mathematician Month, written by the team at UCL. We’ve been participating in the project too, and we’ve found it a great opportunity to invite new authors to write for our site and to showcase black mathematicians from the UK and elsewhere. We’ve posted several articles during the month, and hope to continue to feature more diverse authors on the site going forward, with a few more posts anticipated soon.

To mark the end of the month, Dr Nira Chamberlain gave a lecture yesterday at UCL, and if you missed it, the event live-stream will be posted on the Chalkdust social media:  Facebook / Twitter

Ditching the fifth axiom (video)

Watch geometer/topologist Caleb Ashley explain the parallel postulate on Numberphile.

Stirling’s numbers in a nutshell

This is a guest post by researcher Audace Dossou-Olory of Stellenbosch University, South Africa.

In assignment problems, one wants to find an optimal and efficient way to assign objects of a given set to objects of another given set. An assignment can be regarded as a bijective map $\pi$ between two finite sets $E$ and $F$ of $n\geq 1$ elements. By identifying the sets $E$ and $F$ with $\{1,2,\ldots, n\}$, we can represent an assignment by a permutation.

A new aspect of mathematics

This is a guest post written by David Nkansah, a mathematics student at the University of Glasgow.

Around the fourth century BC, the term ‘Mathematics’ was defined by Aristotle as the “science of quantity”. It’s my own experience as a young mathematician to say this definition, although correct in its own right, poses a problem for those who do not truly know what mathematics is. It fails to highlight the true creativity of the subject.

Human inspiration and imagination are essential ingredients in mathematics. Regarding creativity, one could say, with merit, that in a sense mathematics is an art. Before proceeding to outline similarities between sketching mathematical proofs and painting on a canvas, it is important to know what fundamental premises mathematical proofs are built on.

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