The London Mathematical Society yesterday launched its Mathematical Sciences Directory (LMS MSDirectory), a directory of mathematical scientists in the UK. Entries include some personal information, academic networks and social media, current employment and information on education/qualifications. Yes, it’s yet another place to list all this information.

The LMS website suggests a set of benefits for being on the list, including networking with others in UK mathematical sciences and the opportunity to contribute data anonymously to projects such as the Mathematical Sciences People Pipeline, which are used “to make representation to national policy-makers regarding the mathematical sciences”.

Those eligible to be listed include people with a maths degree from a UK institution, those currently working in mathematical sciences in the UK with or without a maths degree, and current students. You don’t have to be an LMS member to be on the list. The FAQ suggests the list was initially populated with data from “over 5,000 mathematicians” (though some may have opted-out before launch – they first emailed me in March asking me to check my data or opt-out) and people can opt to join.

Further details and information on how to join the list from the LMS.

]]>My video features two games which *SPOILER* turn out to have maths in them. I’m also doing a bit of a giveaway on Twitter, where you can win the actual cards used in the video (I will post them out in the IRL post mail), so reply to this tweet if you want a chance to win:

Here’s my video again from the other day. If you’d like to win a set of cards, reply with your own version of ⭐& : https://t.co/rppBeftpbf

— Katie Steckles (@stecks) August 17, 2017

James has also posted his video, which is about a different game:

]]>“Proofs” one way or the other turn up on the arXiv pretty much every day, but this one might actually be correct. At least, it’s not immediately obvious it isn’t.

Here’s the abstract:

Berg and Ulfberg and Amano and Maruoka have used CNF-DNF-approximators to prove exponential lower bounds for the monotone network complexity of the clique function and of Andreev’s function. We show that these approximators can be used to prove the same lower bound for their non-monotone network complexity. This implies $\mathrm{P} \neq \mathrm{NP}$.

John Baez has very quickly put together a post explaining the very basics of Blum’s argument. Even more briefly, Blum claims to have shown that the best-case complexity of a function solving the clique decision problem is exponential, not polynomial.

Colin Wright reckons that the proof passes all of Scott Aaronson’s immediate ‘sniff tests’ for a claimed proof of a big problem, and his supplementary list for proofs to do with P versus NP. Those help you spot charlatans and Walter Mitty types, rather than looking at the actual mathematical content.

Obviously, none of us are qualified to even offer a hot take on this, so we’ll all have to wait until more experienced sorts have had a good look.

So, watch this space.

*(Personally, my money is on this not quite working, purely based on my natural pessimism)*

Removing four lines at once with an I-piece in Tetris is the most efficient way to score, which creates a tension: on one hand, you want to build high enough to score quickly, but on the other, building too high puts you at risk of ending the game. The balance between the two is *exquisite*.

I mention that, because I was about to grumble that the corresponding balance in MEI Maths’s new game app thingummy **Factris** isn’t quite as good – of course it isn’t. Nothing ever will be.

This phenomenon is common enough to earn the name “the Tetris effect”.

Between getting hold of it for the ZX Spectrum in the 1990s and realising in 2007 that I had… let’s say a bit of a problem, Tetris was always my go-to game. At one point, I had the 17th-best score in the world on the Linux version and Tetris blocks falling in front of my eyes as I tried to get to sleep.

You can try to leave the glamorous world of world-class Tetris, but it always draws you back in for one last job.

Tetris is mentioned, briefly, in my forthcoming book *The Maths Behind…*, available from October 2017, wherever good books are sold.

The game’s name is a combination of tetromino and tennis.

Here are the seven tetrominos of Tetris.

In case you lived under a rock for the entire 1990s, here’s how Tetris works: the game assigns you a tetromino, which you rotate and drop onto the pile of blocks below. Whenever you complete a 10-piece line across the board, the line vanishes and everything drops down; you get a bonus for removing several lines at once. When your blocks pile up too high, the game is over.

Factris takes the line-removal concept and gives it an arithmetic spin: instead of throwing down tetrominos, the game gives you rectangles of a particular area – anything from 4 to 16, but also the monsters 18, 20 and 24.

Instead of rotating the blocks, you can rearrange them into any pair of factors. A 6-block, for example, can be used as a horizontal 6 × 1, a flattish 3 × 2, a stubby 2 × 3 or a vertical 1 × 6. Primes, obviously, have only two possible configurations; 24, on the other hand, has eight possible ways to drop (In principle, at least – in practice, neither 1 × 24 nor 24 × 1 is possible). However, you’re only allowed to move through the possibilities in one direction – the pieces start as flat as possible, and become gradually taller as they’re resized (“Resized” is the game’s terminology. I reckon the size is constant, and we’re reshaping. Also, I will fight you).

You are shown the next five pieces you will be given, which allows a certain amount of forward planning; you are also allowed to discard a piece every twenty moves, which is often convenient when faced with monsters. You’re shown where the piece will land when it’s dropped, a development that would have probably made me even better at Tetris.

The game board is 16 squares wide and 16 squares tall, a design choice that has several interesting implications. Firstly, some of the pieces – the monsters – don’t fit on the board in two of their possible orientations. Secondly (a minor point), as long as you have space on the board, you can drop a 16-block horizontally and have it vanish immediately. (This is a useful way to buy time, or to get rid of a block without using up a discard.) Thirdly, and probably the key thing to Factris as a strategic game, is it opens up the possibility of clearing the entire board with a single block – removing 16 lines at once, a Factris.

And a Factris – like a tetris – means big points. Removing \(n\) lines at once scores you \( 50\cdot 2^n \) points, so a Factris is worth 3,276,800 points. Removing 12 lines at once is worth just 204,800.

As far as I can make out, the idea behind Factris is to ingrain in its players the factorisations of the numbers in play. I can’t really speak to the effectiveness of that – I was pretty good with factorising small numbers even before I started – but I can easily believe that regular play would leave you with instant recall of the relevant facts.

You mean to say… that was *maths*? But I was enjoying it!

There are presumably side goals of improving speed of thought and general mathematical fluency – again, I can’t see how Factris could fail to improve those skills almost on the sly.

I have some quibbles with Factris. I dislike the one-way nature of reshaping the blocks (for me, making and correcting mistakes is part of maths), but appreciate that this was a deliberate design choice – the makers consider that this would make the game too easy.

I’m also in two minds about the scoring system. In Tetris, you have a fair amount of leeway in scoring your tetrises because the board is five times as tall as the biggest block – once you’ve set up a column an I-piece will slot into, you can build elsewhere while waiting for it to arrive. By contrast, to get a Factris, you *have* to build to the top, you *have* to have a 16-block lined up next in the next two – and if not, you *have* to destroy your work. For me, the balance between skill and luck is a bit off here; I don’t instinctively feel that a 16-row clearance is worth 16 12-row clearances.

Original Mode allows you unlimited time, while Crunch Mode has a ten-minute timer.

Despite those grumbles, it’s a *really* addictive game. The strategy is rather deeper than in Tetris, and the pace a bit slower, giving the player a bit of thinking time. (That is balanced, at least in Crunch Mode, by having a certain amount of time pressure).

The Factris team is still adding tweaks; I look forward to seeing the improvements they still have up their sleeves!

You can reach the responsive development team at @MEIMaths on Twitter (or the hashtags #Factris #LikeTetris #ButMathsier).

Factris is available for iPhone and iPad in the App Store and Android devices via Google Play.

Factris has a homepage on the MEI site.

]]>Statement on the CMI website, including an addendum from Andrew Wiles

via @LondMathSoc

]]>The Carnival rounds up maths blog posts from all over the internet, including some from our own Aperiodical. See our Carnival of Mathematics page for more information.

]]>This year pickings are slim – quite a few mathematical Fringe regulars are having the year off – but there are a couple of shows which have maths as a definite theme:

Mathematician, maths teacher and UK FameLab champion Kyle Evans is taking his maths/folk/comedy music show to Edinburgh, and will be performing his trademark mathematical songs.

Self-proclaimed ‘Mathemagician’ Jason Davidson performs another of his family maths magic shows, suitable for all ages.

The Edinburgh Skeptics have put on a whole month of talks on different topics, although sadly only one of them has a maths theme (and that’s because it’s literally me, doing my Mathematical Life Hacks show on Thursday 24th August).

Thu 24th 7:50 @B_Labyrinth it’s @stecks who’ll make all our lives better with her Mathematical Life Hacks pic.twitter.com/dchtxJXBYO

— Edinburgh Skeptics (@edskeptics) July 7, 2017

I’ve also found a collection of things which aren’t mathematical, but definitely involve science in some way and you may enjoy them. Here’s their programme blurbs and ticket links – enjoy!

- Katy Brand: I Could’ve Been An Astronaut (comedy)

Katy Brand explores her amateur and somewhat improbable love of astronomy and her crapness at maths in this follow up to last year’s hit show I Was a Teenage Christian. - Kevin Quantum: Anti-Gravity (magic)

Impossible illusions and levitations brought to you by the magician-scientist hybrid tutored by Penn & Teller. Having spent half of his adult life studying physics and half studying magic, Magic Circle member Kevin explores the exotic space where science and magic meet. - The Amazing Bubble Man (magic)

Louis explores the breathtaking dynamics of bubbles, combining comedy and artistry with audience participation and enough spellbinding bubble tricks to keep everyone mesmerised. - Baba Brinkman’s Rap Guide to Consciousness (rap, comedy)

Fringe First winner and “peer-reviewed rapper” Baba Brinkman (Rap Guide to Evolution, Rap Guide to Religion) explores the scientific study of consciousness in his latest hip-hop comedy. Baba’s brain consists of roughly 90 billion neurons with trillions of connections, and none of them has any clue that he exists. And yet those cells come together to produce a steady stream of ill rhymes, laughs, and mind-blowing scientific findings. Come and find out how. - Alice and the Black Hole Blues (theatre)

This world premiere devised theater piece imagines that Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland falls through a black hole and meets five visionaries who challenge societal assumptions about women and science. Hypatia, Marie Curie, Vera Rubin, Rosalind Franklin and Lise Meitner prove that even through you cannot see it, it does exist. - Edison (theatre)

The life, career, and brutally stolen dreams of mastermind Nikola Tesla culminate in this genre-bent play, sponsored by one of the biggest a-holes in history, Thomas Alva Edison. Featuring Tesla: troubled genius and brilliant inventor, and Edison: cunning businessman and crook, Edison brings to light this true story based on the life of the original electrical wizard. - Ensonglopedia of Science (music, comedy)

A song about science for every letter of the alphabet. Expect atoms, big bangs, cells, DNA… Expect the unexpected. And expect it to rhyme. (**Katie says**: full disclosure, my mum once gave me a flyer for this guy because he was doing a show in Heywood and she thought I might like it. I never went.) - Doctor Google Will See You Now (talk)

Your supermarket knows when you’re pregnant; Google knows what medical conditions you have; Facebook could help your doctor diagnose you. What if Google sent a record of your search terms to your doctor to notify them of likely health conditions? What if Facebook sent an alert to midwives when pregnant ladies posted photos of them drinking alcohol or smoking? Join**Mhairi Aitken**(University of Edinburgh) as she discusses how this information could be used and have your own say on what should remain science fiction and what should become reality. - Dr Data: The Answer to Cancer (talk)

Data is everywhere. From diagnosis to treatment to recovery, a patient’s cancer journey leaves a data trail. What if the answers we seek about cancer are hidden in there? It could help us refine diagnosis, select treatments and improve the patient experience. - Measuring Humanity (talk)

Someone smart once said ‘if you can’t measure it, it doesn’t exist’, so**Marisa de Andrade**(The University of Edinburgh) is out to measure humanity! Join her as she pushes academic boundaries on her mission to measure health and inequalities through creativity and connectivity. Is there such a thing as hard-to-reach communities? Is there only evidence where there’s money to be made? How do you measure soft touchy-feeling things like compassion and relationships – and should researchers be doing this anyway? Can you prove that acting helps you stop smoking, or that 3D virtual reality landscapes beat depression? - Physics vs Psychology: Which is the Hard Science? (talk)

The year is… not important; this is fiction. But Susan, the last secondary school student on Earth, is deciding what to study at university. Physicist**Helen Cammack**and psychologist**Kate Cross**(University of St Andrews) are here to do battle for Susan’s soul. Should she pursue physics, the study of the universe? Or psychology, the science of the mind? Is there a hard option and an easy option? Susan needs you to come along, ask hard questions of our two scientists and help her choose her path… - You Don’t Matter (talk)

You’re completely insignificant; just one out of 7 billion people on planet Earth, orbiting just one star out of 100 billion stars in our Milky Way galaxy, just one galaxy out of 100 billion galaxies in our observable universe. And our universe is likely just one universe in an almost infinite number of universes where everything can and will happen. No longer should you waste time worrying about life’s indecisions, because in one universe, somewhere out there, you’ll have made the right choice.**Catherine Heymans**and**Joe Zuntz**(University of Edinburgh) will be your guides. - The Principle of Uncertainty (theatre)

Dr Laura Bailey knows how to explain to everyone counter-intuitive double slits experiments or the paradox of a cat in a box which is dead and alive at the same time. She believes the equations that tell her unequivocally of the existence of a myriad of different universes, but when faced with a crucial event, science falls short of showing her a way out. - 1 Woman, a High-Flyer and a Flat Bottom: Samantha Baines (comedy)

Award-winning comedian**Samantha Baines**(The Crown, Sunny D, BBC Radio 4) returns to Edinburgh after a smash-hit, sell-out run in 2016. This year she’s exploring the lost women of science. Expect facts, puns and an ear trumpet attached to a whiskey bottle. - Double Dome Nights: Dark Side of the Moon – the Full Dome Experience

Double Dome Nights is showing a combination of two films from Dynamic Earth’s spectacular bank of out of this world 360-degree immersive experiences. Inspired by the music of Pink Floyd, this dome spectacular features the 1973 ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ album in explosive surround sound. - Scottish Superwomen of Science – Minerva Scientifica (music)

2016 Fringe award-winner Frances M Lynch returns, celebrating breakthroughs by Scottish women scientists in genetics, geology, computing, engineering, astronomy, marine biology, mobile phones, etc. Musical drama featuring new sounds fashioned from traditional and classical songs by Scottish women composers, some co-created with women scientists for Minerva Scientifica. - Wanna Dance With Somebody! Or, A Guide To Managing Social Anxiety Using Theoretical Physics (theatre)

Josh is good at dancing, but not at people. Is the hokey cokey really what it’s all about? Josh doesn’t know, but he’s damn well going to find out. A new show about social anxiety, about coping mechanisms, about big ideas and how they impact on small things. About taking chances. And about dancing. Mixing storytelling and physical comedy, Running Dog Theatre create a show that is part physics lecture, part dance lesson and part school disco.

Sir David Spiegelhalter is quoted saying: “Dealing with the size of the p-value fixes some things. But it’s not dealing with the most important issues.” There’s a lot more in the BuzzFeed article and the full paper.

PsyArXiv preprint: Redefine statistical significance.

BuzzFeed: These People Are Trying To Fix A Huge Problem In Science.

]]>See the announcement on the Microsoft Developer blog for more details. **Warning:** it’s a bit complicated.

*We’ve been sent a copy of Matthew Lane’s Power-Up: Unl*

Rather than a survey of mathematical research on a common topic like Hannah Fry’s *The Mathematics of Love*, *Power Up* is a look at interesting maths-y topics applied to more or less contrived situations arising from playing or thinking about various computer games. Probabilities are explained through the problem of getting the same word again and again in *Draw Something!* (a common frustration I imagine), while the travelling salesman problem is discussed in relation to collecting the 100 ‘data fragments’ in an *Assassin’s Creed* game via the shortest route possible (I haven’t played any *Assassin’s Creed* but I assume that nobody would have any call to actually do this).

If your field of reference overlaps with the examples in the book — lots of Mario, Threes! Rather than 2048 — there’ll probably be plenty of smiles of recognition. Lane ponders lots of topics that a reader with a mathematical mindset is likely to have considered. Why, for example, when Mario jumps from a stationary position on a moving platform in *Super Mario Bros*, does he spring vertically up from where he took off, rather than moving with the platform as Galilean relativity dictates? And why in *Super Mario 64* and subsequent 3D games has order been restored, with Mario duly landing at the same point on the platform from which he jumped?

Lane explains some pretty technical concepts in an accessible way, from chaos and dynamical systems (relationships in *The Sims* and the bouncing of *MarioKart* green shells) to P vs NP (*Tetris* and *Minesweeper*, though I think computer scientists after a bit of easy publicity have probably proved pretty much every game is NP-hard by now). Most of the hairier explanations are quarantined in appendixes, though I admit I did skip over a few of the details of some differential equations in the main text.

There’s no overarching thread to *Power Up*, so you can dip into whichever of the eight main chapters you like and find something interesting. The final chapter is the author’s thesis on the value of games to teaching maths (unsurprisingly, he’s in favour of it). There is one unforgivable lapse I spotted: a graph of daily active users of *Draw Something* over time, used to illustrate the fall in popularity of the app attributed to the paucity of available words to draw, has its y-axis truncated to start at 9 million. An apparent complete exodus from the game over a month turns out to be merely a 35% drop, presumably not too disastrous in an environment where sudden initial surges in popularity are the norm. But unless you take a fully zero-tolerance approach to data-visualisation transgressions you shouldn’t let this put you off giving *Power Up* a read if you want a fun survey of interesting maths related through the lens of video games.

Power-Up: Unlocking the Hidden Mathematics in Video Games at Princeton University Press

Power-Up: Unlocking the Hidden Mathematics in Video Games at Amazon

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