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Aperiodical News Roundup – January 2023

Here’s a round-up of news stories from January 2023.

Maths forever news

The British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has announced that all students will study maths to age 18. The response has been varied, with commentators from both within mathematics and from non-mathematical backgrounds weighing in (with varying degrees of nuance).

However, this isn’t planned to happen soon – only to start the work to introduce this during this Parliament, with actual implementation to happen at an unspecified point in the future.

It’s worth noting that there is a shortage of maths teachers, with nearly half of schools currently using non-specialist maths teachers, according to the TES.

The fact this might make maths a political football is a bit of a problem – the opposition Labour party say “they’ve nothing to offer the country except double maths”. (As much as we love maths, we’ll agree there are more important things to worry about at the moment).

Tech news

The Chrome browser, and eventually other browsers built on it such as Edge and Opera, can now render MathML without any additional libraries as of version 109. Chrome briefly had some support for MathML, which was removed in 2013 due to lack of interest from Google. The developers who were working on it have kept plugging away, funded by the open source software consultancy Igalia.

Until now, the only reliable way to display mathematical notation on the web has been to use a JavaScript library such as MathJax or KaTeX, which do all the work of laying out symbols using generic HTML elements.

Now, you can just put MathML code in a page and expect most browsers to display it, like this:

1 x 2 + 1

There’s still a need for MathJax and the like: writing MathML code is no fun, so they’re still useful for translating LaTeX code, and MathJax adds a range of annotations that help with accessibility. But this is a step towards mathematical notation being much easier to work with on the web!

Other news

Comic strip style poster titled "Math is the Hero".

The US National Academies have released a series of posters “Illustrating the impact of the mathematical sciences”.

CLP’s place of work still has some Millennium Maths Project posters clinging on to the walls, older than almost all of the students, so maybe it’s time for a refresh! (via Terence Tao)

Tim Austin is the new Regius professor mathematics at Warwick. (via Warwick Mathematics Institute)

A bit of bureaucracy news: the Council for the Mathematical Sciences, comprising the five learned societies for maths and stats in the UK, is creating a new Academy for the Mathematical Sciences. It looks like the societies for the different sub-disciplines have acknowledged they need to work together, though this gives off a “now you have n+1 standards” smell. They’ve got a nice logo, though.

The Financial Times style guide changed so that ‘data’ is always singular, pragmatically following common usage. FT writer Alan Beattie said it best: “For anyone opposed, I’d like to know what your agendum is.


The London Mathematical Society will hold a ceremony in London on 22nd March to officially award the Christopher Zeeman medal to the 2020 and 2022 medallists, Matt Parker and Simon Singh.

The ICMS in Edinburhgh has launched a “Maths for Humanity” initiative, which will be “devoted to education, research, and scholarly exchange having direct relevance to the ways in which mathematics, broadly construed, can contribute to the betterment of humanity.” (via Terence Tao)

And finally

Yuri Marin has died. The Max Planck Institute has posted an obituary describing his life’s work. One of his PhD students, Arend Bayer, collected some memories in a Mastodon thread.

William ‘Bill’ Lawvere has died. There is a page on the nLab describing his life’s work.

What Can Mathematicians Do? Recordings of ten talks by disabled mathematicians

Montage of faces of presenters

In December I organised a series of online public maths talks called What Can Mathematicians Do?

The recordings of the talks are now online, free for anyone to watch. You could go to the official page I put up on Newcastle University’s website, or you could just watch them here!

How to fold and cut a Christmas star

This week and last I hosted a series of public maths talks featuring disabled presenters. I’ll post about how that went later, but for now I just want to share this clip of me filling time spreading Christmas joy.

This is a party trick that Katie Steckles showed me: you can fold a piece of paper and then make a single cut to produce a five-pointed star. I showed how to do it by following the instructions I’d been told, and then recreated the steps just starting from the insight that when you make the cut, all the edges of the shape need to be on top of each other.

Maybe you’ll show someone else how to do it during the Christmas holiday?

This doesn’t only work for stars: there’s a theorem that you can make any polygon by folding and a single cut. Erik Demaine has made a really good page about the theorem, with some examples to print out and links to research papers. Katie can cut out any letter of the alphabet on demand, which is impressive to witness!

What Can Mathematicians Do? A series of online talks about maths

Screenshot of the What Can Mathematicians Do? website

I’ve put together a series of online public maths presentations, to take place in the last couple of weeks of term before Christmas.

This came about after a few people on the Talking Maths in Public WhatsApp group complained that we can hardly ever take up requests for a speaker to deliver a fun maths talk due to our disabilities, usually because of the difficulty of travelling to and from an event. I quipped that we should set up a series of talks for non-commutative mathematicians, and then I was told that the department’s EDI committee had a load of money sitting unused in its budget. So I decided to use some of it!

Integer sequence review: A101544

It’s nine years since the first integer sequence review, and six years since the last one. We’ve grown as people, and in CLP’s case, grown people. The world has changed, but our love for the Online Encyclopedia of Integer Sequences hasn’t.


Smallest permutation of the natural numbers with $a(3k-2) + a(3k-1) = a(3k)$, $k > 0$.

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 9, 6, 7, 13, 8, 10, 18, 11, 12, 23, 14, 15, 29, 16, 17, 33, 19, 20, 39, 21, 22, 43, 24, 25, 49, 26, 27, 53, 28, 30, 58, 31, 32, 63, 34, 35, 69, 36, 37, 73, 38, 40, 78, 41, 42, 83, 44, 45, 89, 46, 47, 93, 48, 50, 98, 51, 52, 103, 54, 55, 109, 56, 57, 113, 59, 60

Presenters wanted: a series of public maths talks by disabled mathematicians

I’m organising a series of online public maths talks through my work, the School of Maths, Stats and Physics at Newcastle University.

The point is that talks will be delivered by disabled presenters. This came about because I and some other disabled people who do maths talks got tired of missing out on opportunities to do outreach because it involves travelling. Not every disability makes travelling harder, but we felt that there were enough people excluded by in-person events that it would be nice to put on a more accessible event.

My aim is for this to take place in December 2022, near to the International Day of People with Disabilities. Talks can be any mathy topic, or about your experience as a disabled mathematician.

I need speakers!

To give some idea of what I’m looking for, I’ll use myself as an example. I count myself disabled at least four ways: I’m colourblind, autistic, dyspraxic, and have Ehlers-Danlos syndrome.

I might talk about:

  • Use of colour in mathematical communication, for example how red chalk makes chalk-and-talks inaccessible.
  • How ambiguously-worded maths problems have stymied me in the past, and how to write them more clearly.
  • Integer sequences, which is just something I’m interested in.

The sessions will be delivered over Zoom, with live captions written by humans and a BSL interpreter. (If you can recommend a BSL interpreter with experience of interpreting maths talks, please get in touch!)

We’ll be advertising the talks to the general public, both grown-ups and schools, so I’m not looking for talks about high-level maths or education research.

This is open to anyone around the world, but if you’re a long way from the UK bear in mind that we’ll schedule the sessions at a convenient time for a British audience.

If you’re interested in taking part, please email

I’d like to have a list of presenters by the end of September, to leave plenty of time to arrange whatever needs to be arranged and to advertise the talks.