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Podcast: Episode 40 – Maths news with Sarah Shepherd

These are the show notes for episode 40 of the Travels in a Mathematical World Podcast. 40 is, in English, the only number whose constituent letters appear in alphabetical order. More about 40 from Number Gossip.

This week on the podcast I met Sarah Shepherd, PhD student at the University of Nottingham and Editor of iSquared Magazine and we discussed some maths news. Links to all the articles we mentioned are below.

British Science Festival
There was an active mathematics component at the recent British Science Festival. Information about the festival is available on the British Science Festival website. Read the BBC daily reporters log by Sue Nelson. Read “Simon Singh: My quest for a perfectly awful formula” in the Guardian.

Turing apology
Alan Turing has received a posthumous apology from the UK Government for the treatment he received for being gay. Read the apology on the Number 10 website, watch a BBC News video giving some background and listen to a short piece from the Today programme. You can read “How Alan Turing Finally Got a Posthumous Apology” by petition organiser John Graham-Cumming.
Guardian piece: “PM’s apology to codebreaker Alan Turing: we were inhumane“. BBC: “PM apology after Turing petition“. Alan Turing’s life and work was covered by Noel-Ann Bradshaw in podcast 21.

First one trillion cases of congruent number search
Mathematicians have resolved the first one trillion cases of an ancient mathematics problem using “a clever technique for multiplying large numbers”. Read “Mathematicians Solve ‘Trillion Triangle’ Problem” at Science Daily.

Andy Burnham and exponential growth
UK Health Minister has been “taken to task” on the rules of exponential growth by a US blogger over swine flu projections. Read “Uncomfortable sums? Andy Burnham taken to task over his swine flu maths” at the Times Online and “UK Health Minister: exponentially dumb” at the Effect Measure blog.

Stephen Hawking awarded Presidential Medal of Freedom
President Obama has presented the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Stephen Hawking for “overcoming disability to push the boundaries of science”. Read “Obama presents presidential medal of freedom to 16 recipients” from the Guardian.

Brain chaos
Researchers believe the brain operates in a state of “self-organised criticality”, on the boundary between stable and chaotic behaviour – and this is a good thing. Read “Disorderly genius: How chaos drives the brain” in New Scientist.

MTi journal launched by ATM at MEI conference
The Association of Teachers of Mathematics (ATM) has launched Mathematics Teaching interactive (MTi), an online journal to accompany their print journal Mathematics Teaching, at the Mathematics in Education and Industry conference.

“Odd day” and other ‘significant’ dates
I highlighted the dates 5/7/9, 9/9/9, 20/09/2009 and 7/8/9 with all the fun to be had at 12:34:56 7/8/9 and so on. Read about Odd Day on the Odd Day website.

Zombies attack!
A mathematical exercise has been carried out by researchers in Canada considering the question “If there was to be a battle between zombies and the living, who would win?” Read “Science ponders ‘zombie attack‘” from the BBC.

Google’s Pagerank used to study eco-system collapse
Researchers believe a modified version of Google’s Pagerank algorithm could be “a simple way of working out which extinctions would lead to ecosystem collapse”. Read “Google trick tracks extinctions” from the BBC.

A-Level entries in Mathematics and Further Mathematics increase
The number of A and A/S level Mathematics and Further Mathematics students has shown a dramatic increase this year. Read the LMS/IMA press release “Maths A-level numbers bounce back“.

Cambridge entrance exam
The head of admissions at the University of Cambridge “suggested that it was difficult to pick out the most able sixth-formers based on A-levels alone” after one third of A grade mathematics students failed the entrance exam. Read “A-levels: Row over maths standards” from the Telegraph.

Maths standards 30 years ago
A study has suggested pupils are no better at maths now than in the 1970s, despite a rise in exam grades. Read “Maths ‘no better than in 1970s’” from the BBC. Also read a letter to the Guardian on this subject from Anne Watson, Professor of mathematics education, University of Oxford.

Maths ‘costliest degree’
According to an NUS survey, maths and computer science are the most expensive degrees in terms of hidden costs but we aren’t convinced the numbers add up. Read “Maths and computer science are costliest degrees“.

Boys outperform girls in GCSEs
Boys outperform girls in GCSE maths for the first time in 12 years and the suggestion is the scrapping of coursework is the cause. Read “GCSE results: Boys bag top grades in maths” from the Guardian.

Research show correlation between gender attitudes and performance
New research shows a correlation between “the extent to which a country believed that girls performed poorly, and actual results”. Read “Girls, maths, science and stereotypes” from the Telegraph.

The latest issue of iSquared Magazine is a special issue “Women in Maths”. Find out more at

Chartered Mathematics Teacher
On behalf of the Chartered Mathematics Teacher Registration Authority, the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications is delighted to announce that the Chartered Mathematics Teacher (CMathTeach) designation is now available. Interested? Visit the CMathTeach web pages for more information on the designation, the equivalence routes, application forms and details on how to apply,

IMA Student Prizes
I am aware of two local newspaper reports of students winning IMA graduate Prizes: “It all adds up as mum wins top maths honour” from the South Wales Echo and “Crewe student wins top award from the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications” from the Crewe Chronicle. You can read a blog post I wrote about Prizes “IMA Prize Giving at King’s“.

David Crighton Medal 2009
The Councils of the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications and of the London Mathematical Society have awarded the 2009 David Crighton Medal for services to mathematics and to the mathematical community to Professor Keith Moffatt, F.R.S., Emeritus Professor of Mathematical Physics at the University of Cambridge, in recognition of his contributions to fluid dynamics and mathematical modelling and for his leadership in many positions in UK and international mathematical organisations. Read more: “David Crighton Medal“.

Whither Mathematics?
The current issue of Mathematics Today is a special issue on the state of mathematics in the UK. Find out more about Mathematics Today on the IMA website.

You can find out more about my work with the IMA by following me on Twitter, reading this blog and visiting Join the Facebook page.

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