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Maths at the Manchester Science Festival 2016


Here’s our annual round-up of what’s happening in sums/thinking at this year’s Manchester Science Festival. If you’re local, or will be in the area around 20th-30th October, here’s our picks of the finest number-based shows, talks and events.

The Science of Gambling with Guardian Live

Saturday 22nd October, 7pm-9pm, Manchester235 Casino
Tickets £6; 18+

Dust off your tuxedos and cocktail dresses for a night at the casino… in the name of science. This cabaret-style show explores the different scientific aspects of gambling, like the probability of winning and the psychology of body language. Plus, what happens to your brain when you gamble?

Psychologist Paul Seager explores deception and bluffing within the game of Poker.  He talks about the use of verbal and non-verbal behavioural cues (‘tells’, in Poker parlance) in figuring out whether or not your opponents are trying to pull the wool over your eyes and steal all your chips.

Mathematician Katie Steckles (that’s me!) reveals the probability of drawing particular cards and dice rolls, and how you can use statistics to your advantage.

Neuroscientist Nicola Ray explores why gambling (in its non-addictive form) is so much fun. She’ll talk about how important brain regions are “hijacked” by the games played during gambling: the same regions that are responsible for ensuring we eat, procreate and fall in love are also the ones that ensure we keep playing even when we’re losing.

Casino Royale-style black-tie dress is optional, but warmly encouraged.

Manchester MegaPixel

Monday 24th-Sunday 30th October, 10am-5pm, Museum of Science and Industry
Drop in any time; main activities over 29th-30th weekend

Manchester MegaPixel is part of the 2016 Manchester Science Festival, during which and maths ninja Matt Parker will be building a gigantic pixel image display by colouring individual pixels using red, green and blue pens. This will model the way computer LCD screens use red, green and blue light to display photographs and images, but on a much larger scale!

The finished pixels will be arranged inside a large window at the museum, and will be on display for people to see the completed image. The finished MegaPixel will be over 10 metres high, and consist of around 8000 individual pixels, each of which has 300 coloured segments.

We’ll be colouring and building the pixel from Monday 24th October, finishing on Sunday 30th, and will also have other activities going on at the Museum of Science and Industry during the week, so you can learn about how image displays work, and help create the MegaPixel.

Engineering Showoff

Wednesday 26th October, 7pm-10.30pm, Pub/Zoo
Tickets £5; 18+

From the brains behind Bright Club and Science Showoff comes Engineering Showoff, a chance to hear the funny side of building and looking after the structures, technology and ideas that surround us. Engineers from the north west’s universities and businesses take to the stage as stand-up comedians, sharing jokes and anecdotes from their professional lives. The gig is hosted by comedian and self-professed nerd Steve Cross.

Manchester Science Festival’s 10th Birthday Party

Thursday 27th October, 7pm-10.30pm, Museum of Science and Industry
Tickets free; 18+

msf_icon_wearing-a-party-hatThe Festival celebrates its 10th birthday this year – which is a very fine excuse to throw a party. Grab a slice of cake and:

Find out the scientific (mathematical tho) way to cut a cake with the Guardian’s Alex Bellos. Decorate your own cake and learn how to avoid a soggy bottom with MetMunch. Discover the secret science (maths tho) behind magic tricks with magician and ex-atomic physicist Matt Pritchard. Explore the psychology of why we love or loathe clowns with Ginny Smith. Discover the maths of chocolate fountains with Adam Townsend. Punch a bowl of custard and play musical chairs with Science Made Simple. Blow up a giant DNA double helix made of balloons with the Museum of Science and Industry’s Explainers. Embrace your inner child with some science-inspired face painting, and get ready to bust some moves at the #HookedOnMusic silent disco.

Party food will be served from the Warehouse Restaurant and the bar will be open all night.

Is a Mathematician Human?

Friday 28th October, 6.30pm-7.30pm, Portico Library
Tickets £5/6/7; concessions available

Dr Jonathan Swinton talks about a 1949 seminar in which pioneering mathematician Alan Turing discussed artificial intelligence (AI). It was during this seminar that some of the world’s first scepticisms about AI were raised. Can a machine think? Can it love? You’ll also hear a rare recording from 1976 by Max Newman, which discusses Turing and his work.

The participants in this Mancunian conversation were a remarkable mixture of economic migrants, asylum seekers and local talent. What combinations of thought and love attracted these thinkers to the soot-black, war-weary city? And why was Turing’s tale for so long unwritten in Manchester’s own history?

After School Science Club: COLOUR

logo-colour-largeSaturday 29th October, 7pm-10pm, Museum of Science and Industry
Tickets £9.50; 18+

Miss the fun bits of your school science lessons? Then you’ll be pleased to hear that After School Science Club is back. Join that Katie Steckles and some colourful science stars for an adults-only evening of demonstrations and interactive fun. Plus a bar. And no homework (hurrah!).

That Matt Parker, television’s Andrea Sella, BBC Naked Scientists’ Ginny Smith and atmospheric scientist Sophie Haslett will also be there to talk to you about the science of rainbows, the rainbows of science and the maths behind colour TV. There’ll also be competition prizes, a giant painting wall and live experiments. It will (100% guaranteed) be spectrum-tacular.

Breaking the Code (also: Talking the Code)

Friday 28th October – Saturday 19th November, 7.30pm & 2.30pm matinees, Royal Exchange Theatre, tickets from £16.50
Lecture on Saturday 29th October 5pm, free, Royal Exchange Theatre

Can machines think? Is it possible to build a machine that thinks for itself? This classic play by Hugh Whitemore is set in the leafy surroundings of Bletchley Park at the height of the Second World War, where a brilliant young mathematician named Alan Turing was creating a machine to secure victory for Britain.

In the aftermath of victory, Turing arrived in Manchester with an even bigger task in mind – the development of the modern computer. It would be a task he left unfinished, publicly humiliated and destroyed by the revelation of his sexuality and prosecution for indecency.  Turing’s most heroic hour is intertwined with the story of his betrayal and neglect by the nation he had helped in its darkest hour.  Sheffield Theatres new Artistic Director Robert Hastie directs BAFTA winner Daniel Rigby in this major revival.

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