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Maths at the Cheltenham Science Festival

The programme for this year’s Cheltenham Science Festival has now been released, and tickets go on sale to members today (general booking opens next Wednesday). We asked Cheltenham local and science festival regular Martin Whitworth to send us his pick of the events for the mathematically inclined.

Cheltenham Science Festival

Festival season will soon be upon us.  In a recently announced programme of over 200 events, the 2019 Cheltenham Science Festival includes many that will be of interest to the mathematically-minded, including events by maths presenters Marcus Du Sautoy, Ian Stewart, Matt Parker, Katie Steckles, Zoe Griffiths, Ben Sparks, Kyle D Evans and Hannah Fry.

More broadly, themes of this year’s festival include the 50th anniversary of the Apollo moon landing and the 150th anniversary of the periodic table.  In addition to talks for all ages, there are interactive exhibits including the MakerShack and the Discover Zone, and outdoor film screenings including Hidden Figures (reviewed here).

Being Cheltenham, there’s a good dose of cyber-security events including the interactive GCHQ Cyber Zone and presentations on “Enigma: Cracking Hitler’s Code” by Alan Turing’s nephew Dermot Turing and “Cyber Security: On the Front Line” by Ian Levy, Technical Director of GCHQ’s National Cyber Security Centre.

With DeepMind as one of the festival’s principal partners, a further theme is AI and algorithms, including presentations by mathematicians Marcus Du Sautoy (“The Creativity Code”) and Hannah Fry (“Hello, World!”). Come and hear about DeepMind’s chess program AlphaZero from Matthew Sadler and Natasha Regan in “Gamechanger: Learn Chess from AI”, watch the film “Alpha Go” or attend a free workshop on the game of Go by Natasha.

Maths themed events include Ian Stewart giving “A very short introduction to… Infinity”, Matt Parker on the theme of his latest book, “Humble Pi: a Comedy of Maths Errors” (reviewed on this site recently) and musical maths comedian Kyle D Evans with a show entitled “Maths Madness”.

In a series of partnerships, the Aperiodical’s Katie Steckles will team up with moth enthusiast Martin Coath to bring us “Moth-ematics” featuring their favourite facts about maths and moths (I suspect they started with the title), with Zoe Griffiths in a family event on “The Magical Maths of Technology”, and with Ben Sparks in “Puzzles and Pints”.  And if maths in a pub sounds appealing, why not also check out your local Mathsjam.  I organise the one in Cheltenham.

Regular highlights of the Cheltenham Science festival for this correspondent include the annual Variety Night: “An Evening of Unnecessary Detail” featuring many guests including the aforementioned Matt Parker, Katie Steckles and Zoe Griffiths, and the “Overambitious Demo Challenge”, of which Katie is a former champion.

I’m also a keen supporter of FameLab, an international competition for new science communicators.  Having started at Cheltenham in 2005, it has since had over 5000 competitors worldwide and will feature competitors from 25 countries at this year’s finals, held at the festival.  The festival, which is a charity, also now runs a similar FameLab Academy for schools in Gloucestershire and their Science for Schools programme engages nearly 9000 children and young people in the region.

The Cheltenham Science Festival runs from 4-9 June.  Advance booking for members is open now, and general booking opens on 24th April.  I recommend it.

Cheltenham Science Festival website

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