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Maths at the Cheltenham Science Festival

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.

The Science Festival has an excellent website, on which you can search for events by date, time, location and genre, and book tickets. The ‘maths and numbers’ (?) genre comprises the following:

Aside from these events, there are some other events which will certainly contain mathematical content (ignoring, of course, the fact that all science is maths). My picks include:

  • Famelab is a competition to find scientists and researchers who can present their topic well. The contest requires them to give a three-minute talk without slides and with minimal props, and communicate something engaging in a short time. The International Famelab competition holds its two semi-finals (part 1 and part 2) and the final at Cheltenham, and two of this year’s semi-finalists – Galya (Bulgaria) and Eduardo (Spain) – are mathematicians. Watch the acts, and choose whether to support your country, or your subject, or the one with the best hair.
  • Call My Genetically Engineered Bluff (S133), a hilarious science quiz, includes as panellists mathematician Matt Parker, and maths fans Timandra Harkness and Helen Arney, who will presumably all be trying to inject as much maths as possible.
  • The festival’s education strand, which has its own separate programme, includes one maths show – Magical Maths, presented by Dr Matt Pritchard.

Aside from these, there doesn’t appear to be much maths in the festival – which is a shame: they’ve picked a real maths fan as a festival director, in the form of Dara (some of his other events include a live version of his BBC show Science Club and an interview with Peter Higgs) but somehow that hasn’t injected much maths into the programme. The festival has historically been really good for this and I hope it’s something they have their eye on.

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