Manchester Mathsoc Ball

baloons and IMA sign at Mathsoc Ball
Today I attended first hour of the University of Manchester Mathsoc Ball. The Mathsoc recently made a successful application for a grant from the IMA to support their activities. I did some mingling and gave a short speech though I’m not sure most people could hear me in the large hall.

The students had printed a large banner with “Sponsored by the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications” on it. This is a brilliant investment, since every Mathsoc event next year will have the same banner at it and this should produce a real awareness of the existence of the IMA amongst students at Manchester. Below is a close-up picture of the banner and a picture of the Mathsoc President Jonathan Emberey and I.

banner; reads: Sponsored by the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications
Jonathan Emberey and Peter Rowlett

Licence to practice mathematics

I intermittently read a webcomic xkcd, which is mostly teccy and sometimes mathsy jokes. One from a couple of weeks ago stikes me as funny: “Math Paper“. Also, the last frame reminds me of a sign I saw attached to the side of the Department of Mathematics at Bristol. I took a picture of this, (I didn’t take much time over this as it was raining pretty badly so the quality is not great, but I think you get the idea):

Sign reads: Maths Permit Holders Only

(for those grounded in reality, the sign was of course in the car park attached to the Department).

A purple door and more in Portsmouth

Portsmouth Department of Mathematics
Last week I visited the Department of Mathematics at Portsmouth University (pictured above). I was invited to do so by Nira Chamberlain, who is studying part time for a PhD there. I met with staff in the Department and visited the Purple Door (pictured below), where the careers service is based. The Mathematics Department has just moved into a new building and is rare in my experience in that in recent years it has been successful enough to split away to form its own Department where many mathematics departments are finding they are being swallowed into larger departments.

Portmouth's Purple Door
I travelled to Portsmouth and back in a day from Nottingham. This was a bit of an experiment. The travelling was 4 hours each way and I had about 4 hours in Portsmouth. I think this went well, my trip was sufficiently well organised so I could make effective use of that time. This meant I didn’t have the trouble of staying a night away from home and the IMA didn’t have to pay for the hotel, which is a bonus. I don’t think a trip over such distance would be possible in all circumstances but in this case I feel it worked well.

Dinner with the East Midlands Branch

On Saturday night I attended the IMA East Midlands Branch dinner. This was in Ruddington in Nottinghamshire, just a couple of miles from where I live. By contrast, others had travelled from around the region to attend: Derbyshire, Leicestershire, one chap had travelled from Alford in Lincolnshire, which must be a good couple of hours or more drive.

I have been on the Branch committee for the East Midlands Branch for about a year now. The meal was nice and it was good to see this active Branch working well.

Sunny, spring day in Oxford

Oxford Mathematical Institute
Last week I visited the Mathematical Institute at Oxford (pictured above). Last year, before my employment, the IMA gave a grant to the student mathematical society, the Invariants. Recently the committee for this changed and the new committee will take the Invariants through for the next year so it was useful to visit and meet them. I had, I think, a very useful chat with the committee. I also met some interesting IMA members and other members of staff and visited the careers service (pictured below, with the obligatory picture of bikes in Oxford!).

Oxford Careers Service bikes

Cricketing at Trent Bridge

On Wednesday evening I attended a talk by Frank Duckworth on the Duckworth-Lewis method for helping decide the outcome of one day cricket matches where play is interrupted, which has now been used for over 10 years. This took place in the Long Room at Trent Bridge cricket ground. I am not particularly a follower of cricket but the talk was interesting nonetheless. I found Frank to be an engaging story teller and he found a suitable balance between cricket, mathematics and anecdote. He demonstrated using simple mathematical examples the absurdity of the methods in use in the 80s and early 90s and used audience participation to demonstrate the relative ease with which the D-L method could be applied. Still, he was candid about situations where D-L is less than satisfactory and some more recent work to correct for this.

For the cricket fans there was some cricket trivia and the room was steeped in history; the walls were decorated with portraits, photographs and lists of exemplary performances at Trent Bridge. For the mathematicians in the audience, he even flashed up a partial derivative! Frank called the material mathematical though the meeting Chair, Neville Davies, was keen to point out the statistics behind the parameters for D-L and the data analysis in determining how well it is working. A well rounded applied mathematics and statistics problem, I think.

The talk was organised by the local branch of the Royal Statistical Society. More information on the Duckworth-Lewis method is available on the BBC website which has a brief history of Duckworth-Lewis and a simple explanation of the method.