Starting next week, the historic city of Edinburgh will be taken over by entertainers of all types, performing comedy, dance, theatre and music, entertaining visitors to their massive world-famous festival fringe. Since discerning mathematicians sometimes also enjoy being entertained, I thought I’d write a roundup of the shows maths has non-empty intersection with.
First up, since we haven’t mentioned him in a while, it’s Alan Turing! No, his reanimated corpse isn’t performing edgy stand-up, but theatre company Idle Motion is performing a visual theatre piece entitled That Is All You Need To Know, celebrating the work of Bletchley Park codebreakers. Alan Turing Alan Turing Alan Turing.
Next week, scientists, science fans and science communicators will converge on Cheltenham town hall for a week of high-quality science festival. But how much of the programme is given over to the queen of all sciences, Mathematics? Here’s a list of some of the events going on we’d be interested in going to.
You may have seen an article linked to last week, written by Jordan Weissmann at The Atlantic. The article was titled ‘Here’s How Little Math Americans Actually Use At Work‘, although mysteriously this journalist makes use of some mathematical analysis of survey data, and not only that, the data appears to show that 94% of Americans claim to use mathematics as part of their daily job.
The article discusses people’s misconceptions about the future utility of what they were learning, as well as the divide between using ‘any math’ and ‘advanced math’, which includes calculus, algebra and statistics. The number of Americans who admitted to using this type of maths appears to drop off once you get to anything more complicated than fractions, and also presented is an analysis of this divide by job type.
A very well-written and thoughtful response to this has already been posted at mathematics professor Bret Benesh’s blog, which gives four reasons why the article annoyed him (and probably several other people too).
Behold! Further evidence that maths is a thing which popular entertainment can be based on, and not the terrifying subject of horror and difficulty that its stereotype would suggest. Not only do we have a maths-based TV gameshow (now in its second series), and even a maths-based cop drama, but maths is also the topic of a UK-touring comedy show, performed by Aperiodical homie Matt Parker.
We sent Dave Hughes, of the Leeds MathsJam, along as a scout to one of Matt’s recent performances, and here’s what he thought of the show.
If you never thought maths could be made funny, you’ve never seen any of Matt Parker’s shows. Matt’s latest Number Ninja show takes a whirlwind trip through the everyday uses of mathematics in an accessible and fun way. His friendly and approachable personality invites audience participation pretty much all the way through with demonstrations of concepts which may have been previously shrouded in mystery.
This show debunks a number of mathematical myths and shows the audience that maths is not to be feared. You will go away from this show with much to think and talk about. Just how much of everyday life is really down to coincidence? Ever wondered how barcodes work? Who did knit that scarf for Matt? All these questions and more are answered here – it’s designed to be appealing to all – you don’t have to be a complete number-brain to enjoy it!
There are still a couple of dates left on the tour, in Havant (Hampshire) and Barnstaple (Devon). For more details, visit www.standupmaths.com. If you can’t catch him on this run, Matt also does regular shows in London and occasionally tours as part of the excellent Festival of the Spoken Nerd.
It’s a repeat booking for the Festival of the Spoken Nerd in number 4 (or 16 if you belong to Team All Squared) of our podcast. Standup mathematician Matt Parker joined us to talk about interesting coincidences.
Podcast: Play in new window | Download
Having posted about Matt Parker’s Fractal Christmas Tree last week, we’ve had quite a few photos of completed trees sent in! Here’s a Tony Hart gallery-style roundup of them.