Podcast: Episode 41 – Ed Galea, His career, part 1: How astrophysics leads to steel casting and fire modelling

These are the show notes for episode 41 of the Travels in a Mathematical World Podcast. 41 is prime, the smallest non-palindromic prime which on subtracting its reverse gives a perfect cube.

In this episode, part 1 of 2, Professor Ed Galea of the University of Greenwich talks about his career in various aspects of magnetohydrodynamics, from origins in astrophysics and how this led him to industrial steel casting and fire modelling. We learned about magnetohydrodynamics from David Fearn in podcast episode 33. If you are interesed in this topic you can get an overview from Wikipedia: “Magnetohydrodynamics”, with plenty of links to further reading from more reliable sources. There is a wealth of information about Ed’s research on his webpage.

In part 2 next week Ed talks more about crowd evacuation.

You can find out more about my work with the IMA by following me on Twitter, reading this blog and visiting http://www.ima.org.uk/student/. Join the Facebook page.

Podcast: Episode 40 – Maths news with Sarah Shepherd

These are the show notes for episode 40 of the Travels in a Mathematical World Podcast. 40 is, in English, the only number whose constituent letters appear in alphabetical order. More about 40 from Number Gossip.

This week on the podcast I met Sarah Shepherd, PhD student at the University of Nottingham and Editor of iSquared Magazine and we discussed some maths news. Links to all the articles we mentioned are below.

British Science Festival
There was an active mathematics component at the recent British Science Festival. Information about the festival is available on the British Science Festival website. Read the BBC daily reporters log by Sue Nelson. Read “Simon Singh: My quest for a perfectly awful formula” in the Guardian.

Turing apology
Alan Turing has received a posthumous apology from the UK Government for the treatment he received for being gay. Read the apology on the Number 10 website, watch a BBC News video giving some background and listen to a short piece from the Today programme. You can read “How Alan Turing Finally Got a Posthumous Apology” by petition organiser John Graham-Cumming.
Guardian piece: “PM’s apology to codebreaker Alan Turing: we were inhumane“. BBC: “PM apology after Turing petition“. Alan Turing’s life and work was covered by Noel-Ann Bradshaw in podcast 21.

First one trillion cases of congruent number search
Mathematicians have resolved the first one trillion cases of an ancient mathematics problem using “a clever technique for multiplying large numbers”. Read “Mathematicians Solve ‘Trillion Triangle’ Problem” at Science Daily.

Andy Burnham and exponential growth
UK Health Minister has been “taken to task” on the rules of exponential growth by a US blogger over swine flu projections. Read “Uncomfortable sums? Andy Burnham taken to task over his swine flu maths” at the Times Online and “UK Health Minister: exponentially dumb” at the Effect Measure blog.

Stephen Hawking awarded Presidential Medal of Freedom
President Obama has presented the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Stephen Hawking for “overcoming disability to push the boundaries of science”. Read “Obama presents presidential medal of freedom to 16 recipients” from the Guardian.

Brain chaos
Researchers believe the brain operates in a state of “self-organised criticality”, on the boundary between stable and chaotic behaviour – and this is a good thing. Read “Disorderly genius: How chaos drives the brain” in New Scientist.

MTi journal launched by ATM at MEI conference
The Association of Teachers of Mathematics (ATM) has launched Mathematics Teaching interactive (MTi), an online journal to accompany their print journal Mathematics Teaching, at the Mathematics in Education and Industry conference.

“Odd day” and other ‘significant’ dates
I highlighted the dates 5/7/9, 9/9/9, 20/09/2009 and 7/8/9 with all the fun to be had at 12:34:56 7/8/9 and so on. Read about Odd Day on the Odd Day website.

Zombies attack!
A mathematical exercise has been carried out by researchers in Canada considering the question “If there was to be a battle between zombies and the living, who would win?” Read “Science ponders ‘zombie attack‘” from the BBC.

Google’s Pagerank used to study eco-system collapse
Researchers believe a modified version of Google’s Pagerank algorithm could be “a simple way of working out which extinctions would lead to ecosystem collapse”. Read “Google trick tracks extinctions” from the BBC.

A-Level entries in Mathematics and Further Mathematics increase
The number of A and A/S level Mathematics and Further Mathematics students has shown a dramatic increase this year. Read the LMS/IMA press release “Maths A-level numbers bounce back“.

Cambridge entrance exam
The head of admissions at the University of Cambridge “suggested that it was difficult to pick out the most able sixth-formers based on A-levels alone” after one third of A grade mathematics students failed the entrance exam. Read “A-levels: Row over maths standards” from the Telegraph.

Maths standards 30 years ago
A study has suggested pupils are no better at maths now than in the 1970s, despite a rise in exam grades. Read “Maths ‘no better than in 1970s’” from the BBC. Also read a letter to the Guardian on this subject from Anne Watson, Professor of mathematics education, University of Oxford.

Maths ‘costliest degree’
According to an NUS survey, maths and computer science are the most expensive degrees in terms of hidden costs but we aren’t convinced the numbers add up. Read “Maths and computer science are costliest degrees“.

Boys outperform girls in GCSEs
Boys outperform girls in GCSE maths for the first time in 12 years and the suggestion is the scrapping of coursework is the cause. Read “GCSE results: Boys bag top grades in maths” from the Guardian.

Research show correlation between gender attitudes and performance
New research shows a correlation between “the extent to which a country believed that girls performed poorly, and actual results”. Read “Girls, maths, science and stereotypes” from the Telegraph.

iSquared
The latest issue of iSquared Magazine is a special issue “Women in Maths”. Find out more at www.isquaredmagazine.co.uk.

Chartered Mathematics Teacher
On behalf of the Chartered Mathematics Teacher Registration Authority, the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications is delighted to announce that the Chartered Mathematics Teacher (CMathTeach) designation is now available. Interested? Visit the CMathTeach web pages for more information on the designation, the equivalence routes, application forms and details on how to apply, ima.org.uk/cmathteach.

IMA Student Prizes
I am aware of two local newspaper reports of students winning IMA graduate Prizes: “It all adds up as mum wins top maths honour” from the South Wales Echo and “Crewe student wins top award from the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications” from the Crewe Chronicle. You can read a blog post I wrote about Prizes “IMA Prize Giving at King’s“.

David Crighton Medal 2009
The Councils of the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications and of the London Mathematical Society have awarded the 2009 David Crighton Medal for services to mathematics and to the mathematical community to Professor Keith Moffatt, F.R.S., Emeritus Professor of Mathematical Physics at the University of Cambridge, in recognition of his contributions to fluid dynamics and mathematical modelling and for his leadership in many positions in UK and international mathematical organisations. Read more: “David Crighton Medal“.

Whither Mathematics?
The current issue of Mathematics Today is a special issue on the state of mathematics in the UK. Find out more about Mathematics Today on the IMA website.

You can find out more about my work with the IMA by following me on Twitter, reading this blog and visiting http://www.ima.org.uk/student/. Join the Facebook page.

Turing apology

With the news that Alan Turing has received an official apology from the government over the terrible treatment he received due to his homosexuality quickly vanishing into the distant past, I decided to dig out a couple of photos I took on a visit earlier in the year. I ran a stall at a postgraduate conference at the University of Surrey. The University is in Guildford where Alan Turing lived as a child and he is honoured by a bronze statue outside the Austin Pearce Building where the conference took place. My photo of this and the corresponding plaque are below:

Alan Turing Statue


Read the apology on the Number 10 website, watch a BBC News video giving some background and listen to a short piece from the Today programme. You can read “How Alan Turing Finally Got a Posthumous Apology” by petition organiser John Graham-Cumming.

Mathematics Today October: University Liaison Officer’s Report

Keeping in touch

The nature of university life means that the undergraduate students I engage with are only likely to be around for a limited period of time. This engagement is usually though either a student run society or through a student member of a staff/student liaison committee. The end of one academic year and transition to the next is a potentially dangerous time for this engagement with students leaving their role within the department or society or even graduating and leaving the university altogether. I have spent some time at the end of the academic year trying to maintain contact with the students and societies I have had a relationship with, making contact with the next years students where possible. By the end of the last academic year I was in contact with student representatives or societies at 20 universities. If I lose contact with these I will start academic year 2009/10 back at square one in terms of student engagement and this is a large risk in the University Liaison role. On the staff side I hope the situation will be more stable. There are changes in staffing and staff roles though these are found in a much smaller number of cases.

At the time of writing I have made contact with next years students at 14 of the 20 universities I was in contact with last year and I consider this to be a good rate of return. My best information suggests there are 72 universities in the UK offering mathematics. I enter the new academic year with a prior relationship with a staff or student contact (or both) at 50 of them.

My thoughts now turn to planning my activities for the 2009/10 academic year. As in the previous academic year I will travel around the country offering my talk on careers for mathematicians and recreational mathematics lectures on various topics. I will also continue to operate on behalf of the IMA at careers fairs and postgraduate research conferences. In the last academic year I have visited 33 university mathematics departments and given talks and/or operated stalls at 23 of these. I am keen to increase these numbers next academic year! If you want to approach me with such an opportunity I would be very pleased to hear from you. I am also very interested to make contact with the 22 ‘missing’ universities so if you think I haven’t been in contact with your university please get in touch. You can email me on peter.rowlett@ima.org.uk. Another area where your university and the IMA can work together is University Liaison Grants to support student mathematical activities and there is more on this in the Student Section.

Activities July-August 2009

This period is the summer downtime and I used the opportunity to take much of my annual leave. Consequently my activities were lighter than usual in this period.

I attended the 3rd European Postgraduate Fluid Dynamics Conference at the University of Nottingham. This conference organised by and for postgraduate students was supported by an IMA Small Grant and I attended with a stall during the poster session and closing lunch. I believe the organisers are preparing a separate report on this conference. The materials on my stall included the Institute’s new Initial Professional Development (IPD) leaflet which explains to younger members what to do to start on the path to the Chartered designations. I travelled to Brighton for a visit to the School of Computing, Mathematical and Information Sciences at the University of Brighton and to attend a ceremony at that university in which IMA Prizes were awarded to two graduands. Finally I attended an Open University summer school on mathematical modelling and gave a version of my careers talk.

Where I’ve been and what I did there

Little bit of a dry post but as I am fascinated by keeping track of such things, here is a list of universities I have visited so far as University Liaison Officer for the IMA (since I started in January 2008) and what I did there:

Aberdeen (Visited, Careers talk), Bath (Visited), Birmingham (Visited), Brighton (Visited, Prize Giving), Bristol (Visited, Careers talk), Brunel (Visited, Careers talk (twice)), Cambridge (Visited, Research conference stall), Cardiff (Visited, Careers talk), Edinburgh (Visited, Careers talk (twice)), Glasgow (Visited, Careers talk), Greenwich (Visited, Careers talk, Wii talk), Heriot-Watt (Visited, Careers talk), Imperial College (Visited), King’s College London (Visited, Prize Giving), Kingston (Visited), Leeds (Visited), Leicester (Visited, Careers talk, Wii talk), London Met (Visited, Careers talk), Manchester (Visited, Careers fair, Research conference stall), Napier (Visited, Branch talk), Newcastle (Visited, Wii talk, Cryptography talk), Nottingham (Visited, Research conference stall), Nottingham Trent (Visited, Careers talk), OU (Visited, Careers talk), Oxford (Visited, Careers fair), Plymouth (Visited, Careers fair), Portsmouth (Visited), Reading (Visited), Sheffield (Visited, Wii talk), St Andrews (Visited, Careers talk), Strathclyde (Visited, Careers talk), Surrey (Visited, Research conference stall), UCL (Visited), UWE (Visited, Careers talk), Warwick (Visited) and York (Visited, Careers talk (twice), Careers fair, Puzzles talk).

Visited refers to any visit. Otherwise, details of talks I have given are available.

I believe the following universities offer mathematics but I have not yet been there as ULO:

Aberystwyth, Aston, Birkbeck, Bolton, Chester, City, London, Coventry, Derby, Dundee, Durham, Essex, Exeter, Glamorgan, Hertfordshire, Keele, Kent, Lancaster, Liverpool, Liverpool John Moores, Loughborough, LSE, Manchester Metropolitan, Northampton, Northumbria at Newcastle, Oxford Brookes, Queen Mary London, Queen’s, Belfast, Royal Holloway, Sheffield Hallam, Southampton, Staffordshire, Stirling, Sussex, Swansea, UCLAN, UEA, West of Scotland and Wolverhampton.

Podcast: Episode 39 – Beatrice Pelloni, Applications of Fourier transforms

These are the show notes for episode 39 of the Travels in a Mathematical World Podcast. 39 is the smallest number whose sum of digits is larger than that of its square. More about 39 from Number Gossip.

The podcast resumes from the summer break and we hear from Beatrice Pelloni, Reader in Applied Mathematics at University of Reading, who I met at the Women in Mathematics Day 2009 and who spoke to me about her career, the topic of her talk at that event (“Generalised Fourier transforms and boundary value problems”) and a little about being both a mother to young children and a mathematician.

If you are interested to learn more you can get some basics on Fourier transforms from Wolfram Mathworld. (Having brushed up, you might find this cartoon from xkcd amusing: “Fourier“). Boundary value problems are a broad topic; a definition of “Boundary Value Problem” can be found at Wolfram MathWorld and lots of reference material can be found online or in your university library. If you’re really serious, you can read a paper by Beatrice on “Linear and nonlinear generalized Fourier transforms” and there are several papers on boundary value problems on Beatrice’s website.

If you are interested in learning more about the contribution of women to mathematics you might be interested to learn related issues are explored in the latest iSquared, which is a special issue on “Women in Maths”.

You can find out more about my work with the IMA by following me on Twitter, reading this blog and visiting http://www.ima.org.uk/student/. Join the Facebook page.

Advice for new PGCE mathematics student

Recently I offered some advice to an incoming PGCE secondary mathematics student – someone just starting out but who needs to (a) complete the PGCE and (b) be employable a year from now. I’d like to say “Recently I was asked for” but it was totally unsolicited rambling – but happily gratefully received. Anyway, here it is:

I suppose I should have added join Twitter. Any other advice?