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The competition I entered into the first MathsJam Competition Competition

A couple of weekends ago was the big MathsJam gathering (I might call it a recreational maths conference, but this is discouraged). Two of the delightful sideshows, alongside an excellent series of talks, were the competitions. The Baking Competition is fairly straightforward, with prizes for “best flavour, best presentation, and best maths”:

The first will reward a well-made, delicious item; the second will reward the item which has been decorated the most beautifully and looks most like what it’s supposed to be; and the third will reward the most ingenious mathematical theming.

You can view the entries from this year on the MathsJam website.

MathsJam talks now online


The talk summaries and slides from last November’s MathsJam conference are now online!

MathsJam is a monthly maths night that takes place in over 30 pubs all over the world, and it’s also an annual weekend conference in November. The conference comprises 5-minute talks on all kinds of topics in and related to mathematics, particularly recreational maths, games and puzzles.

The talks archive has now been updated with the 2015 talks – there’s a short summary of what each talk was about, along with any slides, in PPT and PDF format, and relevant links.



Registration for the 2015 MathsJam conference is now open

Photo credit: Dave Hughes

Photo credit: Dave Hughes

The MathsJam annual conference is a magical time when maths geeks converge on a conference centre in the middle of nowhere near Stone and spend a weekend sharing their favourite puzzles, games, and mind-blowing maths facts.

Registration for the 2015 weekend, taking place on 6-7 November, has now been opened. More information about the conference, and how to register, can be found on the MathsJam Conference website.

We’ll all be there: join us!

Thinking Mathematically

After this year’s Maths Jam weekend, Liz Hind said she wished she had a blog. Now she does! We welcome Liz to The Aperiodical and her new column, Thoughts of a Maths Enthusiast.

At Maths Jam I surprised several people when I told them I didn’t have a maths degree. Why was this surprising? They expected everyone at Maths Jam to have one? I’m not alone in not having a maths degree at Maths Jam and I don’t think that was the reason.

A good maths education is important because it teaches you how to approach a problem, think about it objectively and break it down. It turns out I’m good at thinking about Zombie Dice and with a glass of wine (and maybe a hint or two) I can solve difficult cube puzzles. It certainly demonstrates my mathematical thinking skills.

I’m also remembered for my talks on ancient Egyptian mathematics. While the mathematical content of these talks never goes much beyond GCSE level stuff, it does rely on a real understanding of what maths is and how it relates to being human.

Does that make me a mathematician? I’m not sure. I’m certainly a maths enthusiast with a lot of thoughts. I look forward to sharing some of them with you.

Poetry in Motion

Phil Ramsden gave an excellent talk at the 2013 MathsJam conference, about a particularly mathematical form of poetry. We asked him to write an article explaining it in more detail.

Generals gathered in their masses,
Just like witches at black masses.

(Butler et al., “War Pigs”, Paranoid, 1970)

Brummie hard-rockers Black Sabbath have sometimes been derided for the way writer Geezer Butler rhymes “masses” with “masses”. But this is a little unfair. After all, Edward Lear used to do the same thing in his original limericks. For example:

There was an Old Man with a beard,
Who said, “It is just as I feared!-
Two Owls and a Hen,
Four Larks and a Wren,
Have all built their nests in my beard!”

(“There was an Old Man with a beard”, from Lear, E., A Book Of Nonsense, 1846.)

And actually, the practice goes back a lot longer than that. The sestina is a poetic form that dates from the 12th century, and was later perfected by Dante. It works entirely on “whole-word” rhymes.

The Chris Tarrant Problem

This is a puzzle I presented at the MathsJam conference. It’s a problem that gave me a headache for a week or so, and I thought others might enjoy it, too. I do know the answer, but I’m not going to give it away — you can tweet me @icecolbeveridge if you want to discuss your theories! (As Colin Wright says: don’t tell people the answer).

You’ve heard of the Monty Hall Problem, right?