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Here are the mathematicians you nominated to go on the new £50 note

The Bank of England has released a preliminary list of names nominated by the public to appear on the new £50 note. I’ve done a bit of analysis on the list, and present here my findings.

To recap: the Bank asked for nominations satisfying the following conditions:

  • have contributed to the field of science
  • be real – so no fictional characters please
  • not be alive – Her Majesty the Queen is the only exception
  • have shaped thought, innovation, leadership or values in the UK
  • inspire people, not divide them

The released list consists of the names that were nominated in the first week, and belong to people who are real, deceased, and contributed to science ‘in any way’. They haven’t divulged the number of times each name was nominated, or the ineligible names.

Zeckendorf cup arithmetic

My 5-minute talk at the big MathsJam conference this weekend was about some stacking cups that my daughter is too young to appreciate. Here’s the really quick version, in just over a minute:

I gave the answer at MathsJam, but the title of this post contains a big hint that should get you there with a bit of googling.

The IMU wants to make π Day the International Day of Mathematics

The International Mathematical Union is trying to get UNESCO to make March 14, commonly known as π Day, the International Day of Mathematics.

Magic Numbers: Hannah Fry’s Mysterious World of Maths on BBC Four

Hannah Fry's face in a kaleidoscope. Screengrab from the programme

The ubiquitous Fry is on our screens again, with a programme about Platonism, on BBC Four.

In Magic Numbers: Hannah Fry’s Mysterious World of Maths, “Dr Hannah Fry explores the mystery of maths. Is it invented like a language or is it discovered and part of the fabric of the universe?”

Episode 1 is on the iPlayer for about three more weeks, and episode 2 of 3 is on tonight at 21:00.

This matrix joke is only barely worth your time

If you see me doing a maths thing, I’m probably wearing one of my maths t-shirts. I’ve got quite a few, but the one that reliably produces the much-sought-after look of total indifference even once I’ve explained the joke is this one:

Photo of a t-shirt with a drawing: 4 by 4 matrix with N E R D along the diagonal

It’s a NERD identity matrix, get it?

That t-shirt was made by Festival of the Spoken Nerd, and by the way they’ve recently put together some new designs.

It’s long bothered me that the nerd identity matrix contains so many zeros. It’s also only an identity matrix if $N = E = R = D = 1$. Surely there’s a joke matrix somewhere with a bit more meat to it?

A puzzle for another day

A few months ago, my faculty’s PR person sent an email round asking if anyone would like to write a puzzle for the Today programme’s “Puzzle for Today” slot, to be broadcast during the programme’s trip to Newcastle in Freshers’ Week. A colleague said this might be the kind of thing I’d like to do, which it was, so I started thinking, and eventually came up with a brand new puzzle which I thought would work well.

If you listened to the Today programme this Thursday morning, you’ll have heard not my name, but that of Dr Steve Humble, who’s got a lot more experience doing this kind of thing. Turns out, they wanted something more ‘visual and interactive’, so asked him instead. I think that was a polite way of saying they just didn’t like my puzzle. Oh well!

Steve chose a classic puzzle that coincidentally appeared on Twitter about a month ago, prompting much discussion. It’s a good puzzle, much better than the one I came up with, but I don’t think Steve was completely right to say “It is possible that you can always create a winning game” – that’s only the case if there are an even number of coins, but his statement said “around ten coins”. I suppose he might’ve meant that, starting from having a handful of coins, you can decide to only use an even number of them.

The upside is that I can now talk about the puzzle here, where someone might actually enjoy it.

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