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Math/Maths 85: Scientists vs. Investment Bankers

A conversation about mathematics between the UK and USA from Pulse-Project.org. This week Samuel and Peter spoke about: Every odd integer larger than 1 is the sum of at most five primes; No pardon for Alan Turing; more super bowl math; Early results from the Met Office weather game; Trends in Race/Ethnicity and Gender Representation in the Mathematical Sciences; Wolfram|Alpha Pro; more on Elsevier boycott; & more.

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Met Office Weather Game – early results

Last summer the Met Office launched an online game to understand how best to present probabilities in weather forecasts. This game was collecting data for a project on perception of probabilities.

The Met Office reports game was played more than 11,000 times. A blog post presents some initial findings:

When faced with straightforward decisions, providing probabilities doesn’t confuse people.
For more complex situations, on average people are able to make better decisions using probabilities.
People make the best decisions when more detailed information on forecast uncertainty is provided.

Data analysis continues.

Met Office: Early results from our record-breaking weather game.

Wolfram|Alpha Pro

Stephen Wolfram writes what Wolfram|Alpha Pro does and what it will cost you. He says:

Over the two and a half years since we first launched, Wolfram|Alpha has been growing rapidly in content and capabilities. But today’s introduction of Wolfram|Alpha Pro in effect adds a whole new model for interacting with Wolfram|Alpha—and brings all sorts of fundamentally new and remarkable capabilities.

Broadly speaking, this adds capabilities around inputting into and download and customise the output from the system.

Announcing Wolfram|Alpha Pro.

Bridging the Mathematics Gap: your views

The Advisory Committee on Mathematics Education have a call for views on post-16 education. This says:

In a speech at the Royal Society in July 2011, the Secretary of State Michael Gove stated his wish that within ten years, all young people would be studying some form of mathematics post-16. ACME is seeking views on how we can make this a reality.

A paper giving some background information & details of how to submit your views are available via the website.

ACME: Bridging the Mathematics Gap : Have Your Say.

Every odd integer larger than 1 is the sum of at most five primes

Terence Tao has uploaded to the arXiv a paper “Every odd number greater than 1 is the sum of at most five primes“, submitted to Mathematics of Computation. He says this result is:

in the spirit of (though significantly weaker than) the even Goldbach conjecture (every even natural number is the sum of at most two primes) and odd Goldbach conjecture (every odd natural number greater than 1 is the sum of at most three primes). It also improves on a result of Ramaré that every even natural number is the sum of at most six primes. This result had previously also been established by Kaniecki under the additional assumption of the Riemann hypothesis, so one can view the main result here as an unconditional version of Kaniecki’s result.

No pardon for Turing

A government minister in the Ministry of Justice, Lord McNally, in response to a question from Lord Sharkey on Thursday 2nd February 2012 made a statement in the House or Lords that “a posthumous pardon [for Alan Turing] was not considered appropriate”.

The statement acknowledges that the offence of which Turing was convicted “now seems both cruel and absurd” but says that Turing “would have known that his offence was against the law and that he would be prosecuted”. This says that the:

long-standing policy has been to accept that such convictions took place and, rather than trying to alter the historical context and to put right what cannot be put right, ensure instead that we never again return to those times.

Back when the pardon petition was launched in November 2011, John Graham-Cumming, the man responsible for the Turing apology petition in 2009, wrote a blog post explaining why he did not support the pardon petition: Why I’m not supporting the campaign for a pardon for Alan Turing (26 November 2011).

On the Math/Maths Podcast this week Samuel Hansen spoke convincingly about a pardon, above an apology, as having the effect of removing the conviction, not merely apologising for it. Graham-Cumming points to the Protection of Freedoms bill, currently passing through the House of Lords, which:

specifically allows for the disregarding of convictions under the old law that was used against Turing. Once disregarded the law causes their convictions to be deleted. It’s not quite the same thing as a pardon, but its effect is to lift the burden of a criminal record from these living men [those who are “still hurt by that law”].