Podcast: Episode 8 – Maths news with Sarah Shepherd

These are the shownotes for episode 8 of the Travels in a Mathematical World Podcast. Excluding 1, for which the case is trivial, 8 is the smallest number which is equal to the sum of the digits of its cube. More facts about the number 8 from thesaurus.maths.org.

This week is maths news week on the podcast, I visited Sarah Shepherd, a PhD student at the University of Nottingham and editor of iSquared Magazine and we talked through some maths stories that have been in the news. Links to all the articles we mentioned are below.

Professor Stephen Hawking is to retire from his position as Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge University after 30 years in October 2009. You can read this story, “Stephen Hawking to retire as Cambridge’s Professor of Mathematics” at the Telegraph.

There was a question in the Guardian from a mathematics graduate looking for careers advice. You can read the relevant “Dr Work” column at the Guardian.

In December, the mathematician and popularisor of mathematics, Marcus du Sautoy will take up Oxford University’s prestigious Simonyi Professorship for the Public Understanding of Science. Read “Popular face of maths to succeed godless Dawkins” at the Guardian.

Maths Inspiration got an outing on the BBC’s Breakfast programme. You can, at present, view the report on the BBC website. Also on the BBC this month mathematics got an outing on the Qi programme. You can read more about this, and about Russell, in an earlier blog posting. You can, of course, make a donation to Children in Need.

Bletchley Park has received a grant from English Heritage. Read “Bletchley Park saved for posterity” at the Guardian. You can make a donation to Bletchley Park.

The Further Maths Network and Rolls-Royce plc have announced a poster competition for undergraduate or PGCE mathematics students, individually or in groups. The poster should convey the essence of a mathematical topic that has been covered at university by the designer to school and college students studying AS or A level Mathematics. They will award a prize of £100 to each of 2 winning posters and the winning posters will be printed and sent to potentially over 2000 schools and colleges. The closing date is 31 March 2009 and more information can be found at the Further Maths Network website.

The Observor published an extract from “Outliers: The Story of Success” by Malcolm Gladwell, which explores the differences in the language of numerical constructs. Read “Why Asian children are better at maths” at the Observor.

IMA Prize Giving at King’s

King's Building, King's College, London
Today I attended Prize Giving at King’s College, London (pictured above). I was invited to attend as the IMA was giving two prizes to mathematics students. One of the students, Janine Walker (pictured below), was in attendance and I was able to meet her and her family afterward the ceremony.

Universities that offer mathematics are able to offer IMA Prizes, generally to two of their graduating students at their discretion. These are often given out based on academic excellence – to the student with the top marks in exams, a project or overall. The Prize is a years membership of the IMA, although I believe it could offer far more to the student terms of prestige. My information suggests the IMA Prizes are offered at something like 74 universities, which is a lot Prizes but relative to the number of graduating mathematics students (something like 5000) this is a small number of graduates with this accolade. The correct wording on a CV could, I believe, produce a very positive effect.

Practice for awarding IMA Prizes varies; at King’s there was an Awards Ceremony (seperate from Graduation) of 45 minutes in which a range of Prizes in Engineering, Computer Science, Mathematics and Physics were awarded. This was preceded by a tea and coffee reception and followed by a wine and nibbles reception.

Janine Walker and Peter Rowlett, Prize Giving, King's College, London

9th Younger Mathematicians Conference

I attended the 9th IMA Younger Mathematicians Conference last week in London.

De Morgan House, London
The Younger Mathematicians Conferences attract Mathematicians under 35 (and a few over to be honest – passports aren’t checked at the door!) from around the UK who are studying and working in Universities, Schools and in many sectors of Industry.

This time the Conference heard from mathematicians working in Mathematical Finance and topics such as the maths of Google, the restoration of the Cutty Sark and much more. And it was a great opportunity for mathematics students and early career mathematicians to get together and meet others in similar situations. I have met several undergraduates at Younger Mathematicians Conferences in 2008.

The 2009 Younger Mathematicians Conferences will be on Saturday 16th May 2009 in Oxford and Saturday 14th November 2009 in Birmingham. More information on the IMA Student webpage.

Quite interesting

On the Children in Need special episode of Qi one of the topics covered was Bertrand Russell‘s work on Principia Mathematica and particularly the proof that 1+1=2. Although a lot of the discussion was frivolous, it did contain some nice comments (the proof described as “an extraordinary achievment” and Russell described as “a remarkable man” and “one of the greatest and most towering intellectual heroes you could ever worship” by Stephen Fry, who I have heard people refer to in similar terms himself). And it contained this wonderful rant from David Mitchell, on the subject of proving 1+1=2:

It’s a bit late, the 20th C., to prove that, I’d say. You’ve got quite a lot riding, by the 20th C., on 1+1 being 2. There’s quite a lot of engineering happening, quite a complex international economy. If you find out that it doesn’t equal two, what do we do? Just burn everything because God knows, anything could fall on our heads, money – you might as well eat it, forget civilisation!

You can view this episode temporarily on the BBC iPlayer (I’d recommend the whole show but if it’s not to your tastes the maths bit starts about 23 minutes in). And you can make a donation to Children in Need here if you didn’t get a chance yet. Happily, they Pudsey himself travelled to Nottingham Railway Station on Friday morning so I was able to throw some change in his bucket. I was on my way to London so he needn’t have bothered, really, he could have met me at St. Pancras.

Podcast: Episode 7 – Neil Goldwasser – Dyslexia Support and Adult Numeracy

These are the show notes for episode 7 of the Travels in a Mathematical World Podcast. 7 is prime, and the numbers on opposite sides of a regular six-sided die always add to 7. More about the number 7 from thesaurus.maths.org.

This week on the podcast we hear from Neil Goldwasser. Neil is a maths graduate who works as a dyslexia support and adult numeracy tutor in a FE college. He talks about his career and his work teaching maths in a vocational context. You can find out about mathematics teaching from the TDA, and more information from Teachernet. Good resources for maths teachers are the NCETM and nrich. Some more information on dyslexia support is available from the British Dyslexia Association.

Podcast: Episode 6 – History with Noel-Ann Bradshaw – Galois

These are the show notes for episode 6 of the Travels in a Mathematical World podcast. 6 is the minimum number of colors that is always sufficient to color any map on a Möbius strip. More about the Möbius strip from The Math Forum and a discussion of the colouring problem at Ask Dr. Math. More facts about number 6 from thesaurus.maths.org.

In the regular Maths History series, Noel-Ann Bradshaw of the University of Greenwich and also Meetings Co-ordinator of the British Society for the History of Mathematics talks about the life of Évariste Galois. You can read a short introduction to Galois and his work at h2g2 or read a more detailed biography of Galois at the MacTutor History of Mathematics archive. You can read a roundup of group theory at Wikipedia and an introduction to Galois Theory from nrich.

You can find out more about my work with the IMA by reading this blog and visiting www.ima.org.uk/student.