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Christopher Zeeman has died

Sir Christopher at the Warwick Mathematics Institute in December 2009. Photo by Nicholas Jackson.

Sir Christopher at the Warwick Mathematics Institute in December 2009. Photo by Nicholas Jackson.

Last weekend mathematician Sir Erik Christopher Zeeman passed away. A giant of mathematics research, he worked in geometry, topology, knot theory and singularity theory, and was also a great populariser of mathematics. He gave the Royal Institution Christmas Lectures in 1978 – not only was this the first time the lectures had been on the subject of mathematics, it was also the start of the Ri’s Mathematics Masterclass series which still runs all over the UK.

He was the 63rd president of the London Mathematical Society (1986-88) and founded the Mathematics Department and Mathematics Research Centre at the then-new University of Warwick in 1964. Zeeman was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1975, and was awarded the Society’s Faraday Medal in 1988. Zeeman was a hugely popular lecturer, and supervised nearly 30 doctoral students.

In September 2006, the LMS and IMA awarded him the David Crighton medal for his long and distinguished service to mathematics and the mathematical community. The LMS/IMA’s Christopher Zeeman Medal for Communication of Mathematics is awarded in his honour.

He will be sadly missed.

via @SusanMOakes on Twitter

More information

Sir Christopher Zeeman FRS (1925-2016), on the Warwick Mathematics Institute website

MathsJam talks now online


The talk summaries and slides from last November’s MathsJam conference are now online!

MathsJam is a monthly maths night that takes place in over 30 pubs all over the world, and it’s also an annual weekend conference in November. The conference comprises 5-minute talks on all kinds of topics in and related to mathematics, particularly recreational maths, games and puzzles.

The talks archive has now been updated with the 2015 talks – there’s a short summary of what each talk was about, along with any slides, in PPT and PDF format, and relevant links.



GCHQ Christmas puzzles winners and solutions announced

GCHQ nonogram puzzle

The first puzzle is a super-fun 25×25 nonogram puzzle

Before Christmas, the benign megasurveillance bods at GCHQ released a set of festive puzzles, in the form of a Christmas card and associated website. An initial nonogram puzzle led to a sequence of increasingly fiendish teasers, and solvers of the final set of puzzles were invited to email in their answers, with the correctest winning a fancy paperweight, signed book and, GCHQ were at pains to stress, not an Imitation-Game-style secret job offer.

Learning to play Go: computer edition

go circuit board

In a remarkable example of us being psychic (or, what’s also known as ‘a coincidence’), our recently posted introduction to the game of Go has been made more topical by actual Go-related news.

The game of Go has long been considered a difficult game for artificial intelligences to play – much more so than chess, which has plenty of computer players. A Wired article from 2014 describes Go as ‘the ancient game that computers still can’t win’. As well as having a much larger set of possible games ($10^{761}$, as opposed to $10^{120}$ in chess), Go also has highly complicated strategy, compared to its simple rules, and moves made early on in the game can result in important changes to the state of the board further down the line.

The Aperiodical’s Actual Snowflake Competition – Results

Before Christmas, we launched a winter-themed maths competition – to design a sensible hexagonal snowflake, using a square grid, which could be used to knit a wintery jumper and not a) look terrible or b) have non-hexagonal symmetry. We had a deluge of entries, some valid and others less so – in fact, we may have had at least one entry break each of the rules we set. Below is a round-up of all the entries we received.

New Mersenne prime discovered, and promptly printed out

Breaking news! On 19th January 2016, the Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search discovered a new largest prime number – we know 49 Mersenne primes, the largest of which is now $2^{74207281}-1$, a number containing over 22 million digits and full of primey goodness.

Internet Maths Person Matt Parker has responded to the news in spectacular style, by issuing a 14-minute long video explaining the discovery and its implications, as well as somehow scoring an interview with the actual discoverer of the new prime, Curtis Cooper.