First, you’ll need to educate yourself. There are some fab videos on the topic – here’s one by Art Benjamin, and the first in a series of three by Vi Hart. There’s also an article in Plus Magazine, by Ron Knott.

If you prefer a less serious angle, you could try this FoxTrot comic strip on the subject, or keep an eye out for Fibonacci pigeons (here presented with some satisfyingly rigorous analysis).

To celebrate Fibonacci Day properly, you’ll need to decorate the place – you could get this Fibonacci lamp, in the shape of a Golden Spiral, or go more serious and build Fibonacci numbers into the structure of your building. Or, like MIT, go for some funky wall art:

With golden spirals on our walls, every day is #FibonacciDay at MIT. #onlyatMIT #aroundMIT pic.twitter.com/ZFHwKi2MuK

— MIT (@MIT) November 23, 2014

For a delicious Fibonacci Day snack, why not make Golden Ratio Battenberg cake (see above)? And to wash it down, perhaps some of Andrea Hawksley’s Fibonacci Lemonade (link currently down, but a description and photo are here), with ingredients in the appropriate proportions? While you eat, talk about things attributed to Leonardo De Fibonacci other than the ubiquitous numbers. Here’s a suggestion from Evelyn Lamb:

I guess someone decided today is #FibonacciDay? Here’s what you should celebrate: Fibonacci bringing the Hindu-Arabic numerals to Europe! — Evelyn Lamb (@evelynjlamb) November 23, 2014

You can read more about the man himself in this piece about Keith Devlin’s book, The Man of Numbers: Fibonacci’s Arithmetic Revolution. Or you can get the book.

People also made sure they spent the correct proportion of the day pointing out that not everything you hear about the Golden Ratio is true – internet maths person, Vi Hart, got animated about it (attracting at least one hilarious response):

The nautilus shell is not a golden spiral. The parthenon is not the golden ratio. The Mona Lisa has no golden rectangles. #FibonacciDay

— Vi Hart (@vihartvihart) November 23, 2014

The Pyramids are not golden triangles. Rabbits don’t reproduce in fibonacci numbers. The galaxy is not a golden spiral. #FibonacciDay — Vi Hart (@vihartvihart) November 23, 2014

Most rectangles aren’t golden rectangles. Most spirals aren’t golden spirals. Most exponential growth isn’t fibonacci growth. #FibonacciDay — Vi Hart (@vihartvihart) November 23, 2014

The nautilus shell has NOTHING to do with Fibonacci. Found 10 nautilus covers in Powell’s math section. #FibonacciDay pic.twitter.com/iOMmkA074I — Vi Hart (@vihartvihart) November 23, 2014

If you too are extremely bored with Fibonacci/Golden Ratio things illustrated with photos of an unrelated shell, Patrick Honner recommends a video by George Hart, in which he explains what a nautilus shell would look like if it were really a golden spiral – and of course, he’s 3D-printed one.

The inverse of the golden ratio, minus 1, is itself! An amazing magic property? No, it’s THE DEFINITION OF THE NUMBER. Humans made it up.

— Vi Hart (@vihartvihart) November 23, 2014

Also, don’t get me started on people who think that A4 paper is in the Golden Ratio – recent TV gaffes on this have included Tom Dyckhoff, in his documentary The Secret Life of Buildings, and on BBC nerd quiz Only Connect a few weeks ago. Here’s another nice blog post, about the Golden Ratio jumping the shark.

A longish post by Donald E. Simanek rounds up some of the ways in which the Golden Ratio is cool, and some others in which people say it is but it’s actually not. Meanwhile, Edmund Harriss recommends an old MAA piece by Prof. Keith Devlin, on Golden Ratio myths.

]]>Here’s a small collection of links to articles about Alexandre Grothendieck, French/German mathematician and algebraic geometer, who died on Wednesday 13 November aged 86. He was a pioneer in the field, and has been described as ‘the greatest mathematician of the 20^{th} century’.

- His obituary in The Telegraph
- The AMS announcement
- A New York Times obituary
- An obituary at Liberation and another obituary at Le Monde (both in French)
- A 2010 blog post about Grothendieck by Jordan Ellenberg
- The Grothendieck Circle, which aims to collate and translate material written by and about Grothendieck
- The Generalist – by economist Steven Landsburg

Green attended Robert Goodacre’s school in Nottingham 1801-2 and took part in scientific culture in Nottingham, including at Bromley House Library, in the 1810s and 20s, before going to Cambridge in 1833. I speak about each of these aspects and some of the people involved. The audience was mixed public. I was aware I was being recorded and tried quite hard to make audible what was on the slides, so I hope you can follow along just fine.

My title was ‘George Green’s Mathematical Influences’ and the abstract is below:

George Green was an “almost entirely self-taught mathematical genius” (NM Ferrers, 1871) whose work was a major influence on the mathematical physics of the 19th and 20th centuries and shows no signs of stopping in the 21st. But from where or from whom did Green learn his mathematics? Peter Rowlett from Nottingham Trent University surveys Green’s education in Nottingham and Cambridge and those who influenced him.

Get the audio by streaming it from the bottom of the exhibition page ‘George Green: Nottingham’s Magnificent Mathematician‘ or by direct download (mp4, 28.2MB). The talk is approx. the first 43 minutes, after which are questions, which you might or might not be able to hear but mostly consist of me saying “interesting idea, but I don’t know”.

While there, you can also listen to the previous talk to mine, ‘George Green’s contribution to MRI’ by Prof. Roger Bowley. The George Green exhibition at Nottingham’s Lakeside Arts Centre remains open until Sunday 4 January 2015. I recommend you visit, if you are able.

Related post: George Green: Nottingham’s Magnificent Mathematician.

]]>I don’t know why this question popped into my head, but it’s been sitting there for the past week and showing no signs of moving on.

Suppose an enemy of mine threw a friendly blue whale at me. Being a friendly whale, it makes the blue-whale-noise equivalent of “DUCK!” to warn me it’s coming.

How quickly does the whale need to be travelling for its warning to be useful?

I suppose I must’ve been musing on ambulance sirens or something like that. Anyway, the key to this is the Doppler effect: sounds from a source which is travelling towards you seem higher to you than they do at the source.

Here’s a formula for what happens to noises when the source is moving, paraphrased from Wikipedia:

\[ f_r = \frac{c}{c-v} f_s \]

- $f_r$ is the frequency heard by the receiver (who’s stationary)
- $f_s$ is the frequency of the sound at its source
- $c$ is the speed of sound in the medium it’s travelling through (e.g. air or water)
- $v$ is the speed of the sound source towards the receiver.

So I just need to find reasonable values for $c$, $f_r$ and $f_s$, and I’ll be able to work out $v$.

The problem with whale noises is that they’re really really low. Or, I’d always thought that. I was surprised to read, on searching for “blue whale song frequency”, the following:

All blue whale groups make calls at a fundamental frequency of between

10and40Hz, and the lowest frequency sound a human can typically perceive is20Hz. Blue whale calls last between ten and thirty seconds.

It turns out that that doesn’t *really* mean that a human can hear a blue whale’s call – Wikipedia’s page on Hearing range says that humans are most sensitive to frequencies between 2 and 5 kHz. The whale’s call needs to get my attention – my whale-tossing enemy might have caught me by surprise – so I’ll assume the worst and pick a number from the top end of that range and say that $f_r = 5000$Hz. The whale’s likely to be quite excited, so I’ll rely on it being able to make a loud noise at the top of its range, $f_s = 40$Hz.

Next, I need to decide what medium this whale’s being thrown in. Water would be the most likely place to encounter a blue whale, but I reckon it’d be able to comfortably fight off any malefactor there, with a home-field advantage. So let’s assume the blue whale has been tricked onto land and is now travelling through air towards me. Google says the speed of sound at sea level (I live at the coast, so that’s reasonable) is $c = 340.29$m/s.

So I’ve got all my ingredients. Let’s work out how fast this whale is flying:

\begin{align} 2000 &= \frac{340.29}{340.29-v} 40 \implies \\ v &= 340.29-\frac{40}{5000} \times 340.29 \\ &= 337.56768 \text{m/s} \end{align}

In other words, the whale needs to be going only about $2.7$m/s less than the speed of sound for me to hear it. That about matches my expectations, but obviously, this has implications for the usefulness of the call – will I have time to react to it?

Another quick google search informs me,

The average reaction time for humans is 0.25 seconds to a visual stimulus,

0.17 for an audio stimulus, and 0.15 seconds for a touch stimulus.

I’m not sure how much noise I need to hear before I react, but let’s assume that any amount of frightened whale scream is enough to get my attention. In $0.17$s, the whale will travel about $57.4$m. An adult blue whale (I don’t think any of my enemies are such terrible finks as to throw a baby whale) can grow up to $30$m long, so this would be quite a short trip for the whale.

All along I’ve assumed that I’m being taken by surprise, and the presence of a blue whale less than a couple of body lengths away would arouse my suspicion long before it starts moving, so I’m happy to assume the whale is travelling quite a bit further than $57$m. That means I’ll have *bags* of time to react and get out of the way.

So I can finally put my mind at rest, with the following list of requirements for surviving an airborne-whale attack:

- The whale is cooperative.
- In a whale choir, the whale would be a soprano.
- The whale is thrown from at least two body lengths away.
- The whale is flying through the air at about the speed of sound, minus a brisk jogging pace.

Don’t do maths, kids!

]]>Puzzlebomb is a monthly puzzle compendium. Issue 35 of Puzzlebomb, for Novmber 2014, can be found here:

Puzzlebomb – Issue 35 – November 2014

The solutions to Issue 35 will be posted at the same time as Issue 36.

Previous issues of Puzzlebomb, and their solutions, can be found here.

]]>Somewhere in the middle, it says that myHermes requires the “volumetric area” of a parcel to be less than 225cm. That’s right: the “volumetric area” is neither a volume nor an area but a length. Anyway, the formula for volumetric area of a package with sides $a,b,c$, where $a \leq b \leq c$, is

\[ 2(a+b) + c \]

(Importantly, $a$ and $b$ are always the two shortest sides of the package)

So the constraint is

\[ 2(a+b) + c \leq 225 \]

In the next paragraph is the puzzling statement that the maximum allowable **volume** for a package is $82.68$ litres, or $82680$ cm^{3}. How did they get that?

I decided to do some calculus of variations, or whatever it’s called.

First of all, let’s take as much “volumetric area” as we possibly can:

\[ 2(a+b) + c = 225 \]

Get $c$ in terms of $a$ and $b$:

\[ c = 225 – 2(a+b) \]

And sub into the formula for the volume of the package:

\[ V = abc = ab(225-2(a+b)) = 225ab -2a^2b -2ab^2 \]

Now, I reckon that if $a+b$ is constant, you get the best cross-sectional area $ab$ when $a = b$. For any value of $c$ you pick, $a+b$ is determined uniquely, so you get the biggest $abc$ when $ab$ is biggest, which happens when $a=b$.

(Proof that $a=b$ is best: Let $a+b = 1$, without loss of generality. Then $b = 1-a$, and $A = ab = a(1-a) = a – a^2$. Find stationary points by differentiating: $\frac{dA}{da} = 1 – 2a$. $\frac{dA}{da} = 0 \implies a = \frac{1}{2} \implies b = \frac{1}{2}$ so $a = b$.)

So, if we accept that $a=b$ is the best way to go, then the formula for $V$ becomes much easier:

\begin{align*} V &= 225a^2 – 2a^3 – 2a^3 \\ &= 225a^2 – 4a^3 \end{align*}

Find the maximum (and minimum) values of $V$ by finding the points where $\frac{dV}{da} = 0$:

\begin{align*} \frac{dV}{da} &= 450a – 12a^2 \\ &= a(450 – 12a) \end{align*}

So $a = 0$ or $a = 37.5$. I’ll guess that $a = 37.5$ is the maximum.

Now we can work out $c$:

\[ c = 225 – 2(37.5+37.5) = 225 – 150 = 75 \]

So the maximum volume $V$ is

\[ V_{max} = 0.375\text{m} \times 0.375\text{m} \times 0.75 \text{m} = 0.10546875\text{m}^3 \]

Or $105.4$ litres. That’s more than $82.68$, so apparently I’m not a maths genius.

I wanted to know where $82.68$ could possibly have come from, so I plugged it into Robert Munafo’s RIES. It gave two equations which produce numbers equivalent to $82.68$ to two decimal places:

\[ x = \frac{e}{\phi} + 9^2 = 82.6799905609888981 \]

and

\[ x = 9\left(\sqrt{2} + \sqrt{\pi}+6 \right) = 82.680006719507503 \]

I reckon the second one looks the most likely for “something someone in operations research made up to placate the journalist”. It’s still pretty weird though.

Can you come up with a better provenance for $82.68$? I’d be interested to hear it.

(No, really, I would.)

]]>- Whose shoulders did Newton stand on? (apparently the answer is not “giants”)
- Were transcendental numbers considered rare, pre-Cantor?
- What is the history behind the Erdős number?

So if you’ve got a burning question about Maths in the Past, there’s now a place to ask it.

**Visit the site: **hsm.stackexchange.com

*The Imitation Game* is the new film starring Sherlock Holmes as Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing, and Keira Knightley as Kate Winslet as Joan Clarke. Together they are two mathematicians in World War II trying to build a bombe. The film will soon be available on DVD, blu-ray, and as an animated GIF set on tumblr.

These are the *Imitation Game* FAQs.

**What’s The Imitation Game? Is it some sort of ‘70s gameshow involving Bruce Forsyth and Mike Yarwood?**

First of all, no. Second of all, how old are your references, are you like a million years old? Thirdly, The Imitation Game is about the famous mathematician Alan Turing, it cuts between three periods of his life, namely his school days, breaking the Enigma code in World War II, and his arrest in 1951 for gross indecency – i.e. being gay. The title is a reference to a paper Turing wrote about computers, and whether computers can think.

**I’ve heard of Alan Turing! Wasn’t there a big thing about him getting a pardon or something a couple of years ago? Did that ever happen?**

It did. Turing was arrested for being gay at a time when it was illegal. They put him on hormone treatment to “cure” him, and in the end he was found dead by cyanide poisoning which the coroner concluded was suicide. Yet he saved countless lives during World War II.

**This is the breaking the Enigma code thing?**

That’s right. The Germans were sending their secret messages using a code machine called Enigma which they thought was unbreakable. If the allies can break those codes they’ll be able to read all those German secrets. That was slightly useful.

**So is that what the film is about, breaking Enigma in World War II? That sounds cool.**

It is.

**Is it a good film?**

Oh yeah, it is. It’s beautiful. There’s drama, excitement, code breaking, World War II-ness. You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. You’ll write a review.

**Great! I’ll definitely go to see it then.**

You should.

**You sound like you know a lot about this Alan Turing person.**

I do.

**Is it accurate?**

No.

**Wait, what? You were praising it a moment ago!**

Indeed, it is an excellent film. It is also wildly inaccurate.

**Oh, but you’re like some sort of expert, this is just going to be complaints about ridiculous things like they drink Ovaltine and that wasn’t a popular brand until 1953. Don’t take it so seriously, things like that don’t make it a bad film.**

Oh I agree! Sure I could write a list like that and pick apart all the anachronisms and confused chronology, but to that would be missing the point. By dramatising events not only does that make the story clearer and easier to understand, but it allows you to reach your audience on an emotional level – to make your audience care. And *The Imitation Game* will make you care. But at the same time, *The Imitation Game* dramatises events so far that it steps into misinformation.

I’ve just checked Wikipedia, it says Ovaltine was exported to Britain in 1909 so you’re fine there.

**Ok, what are these major problems? Do they at least get the stuff about Alan Turing right?**

Sure, unless you count things like his personality and motivations.

**I do count things like that. I’ve seen the trailer, it looks like Benedict Cumberbatch is really winding up the people he worked with. That’s the problem with being a genius I suppose!**

Exactly, in the film it is clear that, as a result of being a genius, Turing is finding it difficult to interact with the people around him, coming off as arrogant and humourless. Pfft! Geniuses eh. Amiright!

But this isn’t quite the Turing I know. By all accounts, he was socially awkward, not in an arrogant way but in a shy way. He was the classic disorganised boffin, with a high pitched voice, a stutter, and was extremely self-effacing. Think more Peter Falk than Benedict Cumberbatch.

**I see, well done casting agents.**

Khaaan! **shakes fist**

**And how would you know anyway?**

True, I’ve never met Alan Turing – he died in 1954 so there aren’t many people left who have – but I’ve met some of the people who have and are still around. Like people who used to work with him at Bletchley Park in World War II, so they would know. I’ve also read the excellent biography of Alan Turing by Andrew Hodges on which this film is based. Hodges had some problems with the script as well.

**Well I guess it could be worse. They could have made him straight or something, and given him a girlfriend. Imagine that!**

….

**What?**

Yeah, about that.

**No! They didn’t! For the love of Pete!**

Wait wait wait. That bit was sort of ok. In 1941 Alan Turing did get engaged to one of the girls who worked for him, another mathematician called Joan Clarke. She was a real person. Turing confessed to Joan that he had homosexual tendencies the day after he proposed, apparently she was unfazed by this and they remained engaged for six months or so. That’s just the way posh people in the 1940s operated I guess.

That story is rarely told, and it is fascinating. It’s true that Turing’s biographer thought they overemphasised this relationship, and there were accusations that the film was “straight-washing” the character, but I think they pulled it off.

**So it’s clear that Turing was gay?**

Yes, in fact he is absolutely gay in the three periods of his life covered by the film. His first crush as a school boy, trying to fit in as an adult, and then the eventual consequences of that including his arrest in 1951.

**Phew. At least the story is accurate, people will learn loads about the story of the World War II code breakers.**

Weeeell… if someone were to write an essay about Alan Turing and the WWII code breakers based on what they learnt in this film I would probably give it an F.

It’s like the writer had the gist of the facts and then went, ah that’s enough. You might expect to sacrifice some accuracy for the sake of drama, but a lot of the time there was no reason why it couldn’t have been dramatic and accurate.

**What did they get wrong about code breaking then? Is this going to be some boring answer involving diagrams and funny maths squiggles?**

I can do that if you want, but maybe later. But there is a very dramatic moment in the film when Turing suddenly realises the trick to break the code.

Turing has to fight to get permission to build his code breaking machine. So Turing breaks all the rules and writes a letter to Winston Churchill himself and gets himself put in charge. He angers his superiors and alienates his co-workers with his single minded obsession of building his machine. Tempers flare as it appears the machine is a complete disaster: the machine doesn’t work. Then in a flash of inspiration Turing realises that they need to input some known piece of text from the code, a phrase they can guess – something like “Heil Hitler”. Turing tears out of the pub, runs across town, his co-workers trailing behind. If they input this guess into the machine they can break the code!

The audience gasp!

**Wow. That sounds exciting! What’s wrong with that?**

Imagine a film about the invention of the train, in which people said “This is all well and good, Stephenson, but it doesn’t work. These wheels are rubbish and it keeps sinking in the mud. What were you thinking!” Followed by a scene of Stephenson later bursting into their office saying “I’ve got it! We’ll put it on tracks!”

That. The code breaking machine was designed to work on known phrases like “Heil Hitler”, that’s what it was built to do. You could still have had a dramatic realisation scene, or a scene when they turn on the machine for the first time, but instead they decided to make the machine out of madeupium.

I do laugh at the scenes of the machine just spinning away with no input.

**Still sounds like a technical thing only you would care about.**

Maybe, but you remember all that stuff about writing to Churchill to put himself in charge, and alienating his co-workers. These events pretty much dominate the story for the first half of the film. None of that happened.

**What, so the majority of the film is about stuff that didn’t happen?**

Pretty much. In the film, his superior wants him out, and doesn’t understand how a mathematician can solve a problem where others have failed. Meanwhile his co-workers hate him because he won’t work as a team. He is alone and no one else can see the potential of what he trying to make.

The truth is, Commander Denniston had been in charge of the code breakers for twenty years and knew exactly the sort of person that was needed to break Enigma. Turing was in charge from the beginning and, together with the other academics, they worked on making Turing’s idea a success. There is no record of them punching each other in the face.

**So the film makers created a film about a lot of people being antagonistic towards each other for no reason?**

Yeah. The jerks.

**So, what, was this code breaking machine they were trying to make some kind of early computer? That’s pretty cool!**

The code breaking machine Turing designed was called The Bombe, and that’s definitely how it comes across in the film, as a kind of computer.

**Was it then?**

No.

As a young man Turing had conceived of a hypothetical machine, called a Universal Machine, which could run any computation. All it needed was a set of instructions – if you give it a different set of instructions and it would perform a different job – that’s what a computer does, like apps on a smartphone.

But the Bombe machines were definitely not Universal Machines, they were made to do one job – find Enigma settings. It could no more change its purpose than a speaker can turn into a hairdryer. You can try, but I wouldn’t recommend it.

Oh, and I might as well point out that the first Bombe machine was called Victory. Isn’t that a cool name. It wasn’t called Christopher, that’s just something they changed to add a significance to the name that wasn’t really there.

**Eh? Why is Christopher significant?**

Because that was the name of Turing’s boyhood crush. They used to do science together, and both wanted to go to Cambridge. The love was quite possibly unrequited, nothing was acted upon. When Christopher died young, Turing was devastated. It’s really sad.

**Aww. So he called his machine Christopher! That’s so sweet.**

Yeah, just to repeat, the machine was called Victory. And they ended up building 200 Bombe machines.

**Ah, now I saw this in the trailer! They used a crossword competition to recruit people. That’s how they recruited Joan Clarke, they would never have recruited her otherwise, the sexists!**

There was a crossword competition, that’s a great story, but it’s not how Joan Clarke was recruited. She was recommended by one of her lecturers from Cambridge because she was a very talented mathematician.

There was sexism in that Joan was paid less to do the same job as a man, but the film basically boils that down to “Haha! Women can’t be mathematicians!” It’s about as subtle as a brick in the face.

**So the made up stuff is just characters’ personalities, motivations, how the characters worked together and what they did. Is that everything?**

Yeah, just the majority of events in the film. And the spy stuff.

**Not the spy stuff too! Spy stuff is cool!**

You bet! And you’ll love this spy. He is horrible. And there’s one moment when he gives Turing a terrible ultimatum. When you watch it in the cinema you should boo him. Boo! BOO!!

What is true is that there was someone passing information onto the Soviets, but he worked in translation, not code breaking, and wasn’t discovered till after the war. He would have had no contact with Alan Turing. Your tolerance for that plot line depends on how far you are happy to stretch the phrase “based on a true story”.

In a bizarre twist, the need for total secrecy ends in them hiding the fact they have successfully broken Enigma from everyone, including Commander Denniston.

**Hang on, I thought Denniston was the guy in charge?**

He was.

**Isn’t it important for the guy in charge to know the code had been broken?**

You would think so, yes.

**I think you just don’t like films. Go watch a documentary.**

Not at all! I just think it could have easily been accurate and dramatic. As a film it is excellent. And if you know absolutely nothing about Turing you will learn that he was a mathematician, a World War II code breaker, and did something important with computers. You’ll learn about his arrest in 1951. And you will feel the drama of breaking those secret messages.

One scene where the dramatisation really does work is the moment they realise one of their ships in the Atlantic is about to be attacked, and they can’t act on this information without revealing the code had been broken. One of the team is particularly distraught because he has a brother on that ship, yet Turing has to be the heartless one and insist they cannot act. That is a perfect dramatisation of the dilemma faced by code breakers every day.

I hope people will see the film and be inspired to find out more! But be warned, it’s about as accurate as I am popular at parties.

**Right, fine. I’ll watch it, and then I’ll go watch a documentary or read that biography to find out what really happened. How about that?**

You do that.

**And which documentaries or books do you recommend?**

There’s Andrew Hodges’ biography of Alan Turing on which this film is based. It’s a bit of a tome, but thoroughly readable. This book more about the man than the maths, but when he gives you the gist of the idea, you know it’s an accurate gist.

If you want an introduction to Enigma including rotors and all that stuff, get *The Code Book* by Simon Singh. It’s a brilliant history of codes, with details explained in an understandable way when you want them.

If you want some details of how Enigma was broken by someone who was actually there, read *The Hut Six Story* by Gordon Welchman – a man whose contribution is criminally cut out of *The Imitation Game* and attributed wholesale to Hugh Alexander who wasn’t even present at that time. Figure that one out, I can’t.

If you want a documentary the definitive one is *Station X*, a documentary series made by Channel 4 in the late 90s, it’s worth seeking out.

*Breaking the Code* is another movie based on the life of Alan Turing, this time with Derek Jacobi. That concentrates more on the gay issues, but includes some Enigma stuff too.

There’s also the film *Enigma* with Kate Winslet, remember that? I have no issues with the accuracy in that film. Also, a lot of people think it’s slightly dull. Make of that what you will.

You don’t want to see my FAQs for the film *U-571*.

**What was your favourite nit-picking inaccuracy?**

When Hugh Alexander is introduced as a British chess champion, which Alexander corrects with “twice”. It’s true, Hugh Alexander was British chess champion twice. The second time in 1956.

Hugh Alexander will correct mistakes you make about things that are going to happen IN THE FUTURE!

]]>What particularly caught my ear was this section (around 5:30):

I was looking into going into engineering … I wanted to do something in industry, I didn’t know what … I went to a careers fair that was specifically for scientists and the people they’d sent to those fairs weren’t sure what to do with me — they recommended the accounts department. So I think there’s more to be done between universities and industry to realise what skills — especially for me: mathematicians — have, and working with degrees and universities to make sure that what you’re learning there is then applicable.

I recognise this frustrating situation, and I’d say this describes fairly well part of what I am supposed to do in my new job when I’m not teaching maths.

]]>

Yep, my dad had got us up before dawn so that we could watch an OU maths lecture as a family. When I later asked him what it was all about over my cornflakes, he got out our child’s sized blackboard and drew some triangles all over it to demonstrate Pythagoras’s theorem.

30 something years later and I still remember this as a great experience, and not just because I got to sit under a blanket watching telly.

This early memory explains a lot about why I find Maths Jam so relaxing. We’re forced to get up too early on a Sunday morning by Colin, because he’s so blown away by the maths and he wants everyone to have a go. There’s a board with a load of symbols on that I don’t always fully understand, but always someone close to hand who will explain them to you if you just ask. It doesn’t matter if you still haven’t understood all of it. I know more now than when I started and made some friends in the process.

All we need is Maths Jam issue blankets.

]]>