After plugging Marcus du Sautoy’s appearances at Hay Festival, it occurred to me that it would only be fair to mention the other mathematically-interesting events of the week.
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Marcus du Sautoy will be involved in three events at Hay Festival the weekend after next, including a talk titled Maths on Stage: The Dramatic Life of Numbers, about “his experiences working with theatre company Complicité on A Disappearing Number and his explorations of bringing maths to the stage in a recent collaboration with actress Victoria Gould.”
Inspirations is a short movie by Cristóbal Vila, inspired by the work of MC Escher. While it isn’t particularly great considered purely as a work of art, it could be considered as an excellent advertisement for maths. It’s jam-packed with references not just to Escher pieces but to all sorts of famous mathematical art and ideas. I think it would take a lot of careful pausing and looking to find all the references.
Science Showoff is a monthly night which takes place in a pub in London, and features acts from all areas of science, who each have 9 minutes to perform an act – a science demo, a routine, songs, experiments – anything entertaining or fun. Having tried a little bit of the short-set, trying-to-be-funny type of science communication involved in Bright Club (a similar venture, giving researchers the chance to try stand-up comedy, which started in London and has now spread all over the country), I thought it would be good to give it another go – in fact, Science Showoff was recommended to me by someone who saw my Bright Club set in Manchester. I had prepared an 8-minute piece about Fibonacci numbers to perform in Manchester, inspired by my artist friend’s admission that she didn’t see how maths could be interesting in the same way as art; she wasn’t there to watch, but I went down well (and ran horribly over time). So I decided to reprise my set at Science Showoff in February 2012 – and this time it would be the right length, and would be new and improved with all the best jokes left in and the duds taken out.
A new post is available over at Second-Rate Minds by Samuel Hansen.
Why your friends have more friends than you do. That is the rather provocative title of a 1991 paper by Purdue University sociologist Scott Feld. While the title is rather provocative, thankfully it turns out that the statement is built on a solid foundation. It turns out that your friends having …
Read the full post: “The True Importance of Friends“
Ian Stewart gives us a taste of his new book Seventeen Equations That Changed the World in a Guardian article about the Black-Scholes equation. This, he says:
provided a rational way to price a financial contract when it still had time to run… It opened up a new world of ever more complex investments, blossoming into a gigantic global industry. But when the sub-prime mortgage market turned sour, the darling of the financial markets became the Black Hole equation, sucking money out of the universe in an unending stream.
So what went wrong? Stewart explains that “the equation itself wasn’t the real problem”, going into some detail about how the equation was derived, how it works and what assumptions are included. He concludes:
Was an equation to blame for the financial crash, then? Yes and no. Black-Scholes may have contributed to the crash, but only because it was abused. In any case, the equation was just one ingredient in a rich stew of financial irresponsibility, political ineptitude, perverse incentives and lax regulation.
Ultimately, Stewart argues, “the financial sector performs no better than random guesswork”, with the system “too complex to be run on error-strewn hunches and gut feelings, but current mathematical models don’t represent reality adequately”, a situation that requires “requires more mathematics, not less”.