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Aperiodical News Roundup – February 2022

Here’s a roundup of mathematical things that have happened in February 2022.


The deeply troubling and developing situation in Ukraine has implications for the 2022 International Congress of Mathematicians (ICM) due to take place in St. Petersburg, Russia in July. A group of Ukrainian mathematicians has issued a call for mathematicians to boycott the event. National organisations around the world have been issuing statements setting out their positions, standing down their participation and calling on the International Mathematical Union to not hold the event as planned. Here are some we spotted:

The International Mathematical Union (IMU) itself wrote to its member organisations expressing its deep concern, acknowledging the calls and saying it is assessing the situation.

Other news

The organisers of the Gathering 4 Gardner recreational maths conference have announced that this year’s event, taking place in April, will be a hybrid event with 50% discount for online-only places, making them a snip at $200. Registration is restricted to previous attendees and invitees, but it is possible to nominate yourself or someone else for an invitation.

Casualties of the recent storms in the UK apparently also include Newton’s apple tree – not the actual tree an apple fell on his head from, but scions of the original are planted all over the UK and one of the ones at Cambridge, which was planted in 1954, hasn’t survived the combined effects of Storm Eunice and gravity. More info in this excellent Twitter thread.

The Royal Statistical Society has released a report entitled Behind the numbers: The RSS puts the statistical skills of MPs to the test, in which they report the results of asking an anonymous unspecified group of Labour and Conservative MPs a series of simple stats and probability questions. The survey concluded that while MPs performed better than they did in a similar test ten years ago, their stats skills were still sub-par. It may not be as unambiguous as the research seems to claim though – Rob Eastaway has thoughts about the questions used.


Dr. Matilde Lalín (photo: CMS)

Canadian number theorist Dr. Matilde Lalín is to receive the Krieger-Nelson prize, awarded since 1995 by the Canadian Mathematical Society to recognise outstanding contributions in the area of mathematical research by a female mathematician. (via Jordan Ellenberg)

Maryam's Magic

The winners of the 2022 Mathical book prize, an annual award for fiction and nonfiction books that inspire children of all ages to see maths in the world around them, have been announced. The winners look to include some lovely titles, including Maryam’s Magic – the story of mathematician Maryam Mirzakhani – and the fantastic-sounding Uma Wimple Charts Her House. (via Jordan Ellenberg)

And finally

If you like that kind of thing, you can buy a bunch of cheap maths puzzle book PDFs in a Humble Bundle (via Adam Atkinson). And if you like proof assistants, there’s now a Proof Assistants Stack Exchange.

This island is big enough for the both of us

I’ve made a little game.

Screens of the intro to the game. Text reads "This island is big enough for the both of us, but we don't want to be together. We'll divide it up between us by digging two squares at a time. Our islands will be odd sizes, and less than 10 squares each. Most squares wins!"

Mathematicians on TV at Christmas, 2021

A surprising number of mathematicians (including some friends of the Aperiodical) have been on UK telly this Christmas!

Nira Chamberlain on University Challenge

Winner of the Big Internet Math-Off 2018, Nira Chamberlain, captained the Portsmouth University team in an episode of the University Challenge Christmas special (on iPlayer, and the episode on YouTube). We’re pleased to see that since his Math-off victory, Nira continues to introduce himself wherever he goes as ‘The World’s Most Interesting Mathematician’.

Paul and Katie on Only Connect again

Aperiodical editor Katie Steckles and site regular Paul Taylor, accompanied by fellow mathematician Ali Lloyd, appeared in the Only Connect Champion of Champions special as part of their team the Puzzle Hunters. Having won series 16 this year, they were invited back to take on the winners of series 15, the 007s. Watch out for at least one maths question! The episode is on iPlayer, and on YouTube.

Ri Christmas Lectures

This year’s lectures were on the science behind virology and the pandemic, and hosted by Professor Jonathan Van-Tam. As part of the second episode, mathematician Professor Julia Gog joined to explain how mathematical modelling can be used to study the spread of viruses, around 38 minutes in. (Slightly worryingly, JVT claims he isn’t any good at maths, so he had to get someone in to help explain it).

All three episodes are available on iPlayer, and will be added to the Ri YouTube channel once they come off there (around the beginning of Feb).

Katie shows you how to make a kumihimo braid

The Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering and Alom Shaha have organised a Month of Making – each day, a different person shows how to make a nice handmade Christmas gift.

Today it’s our own Katie’s turn. Her gift is a simplified version of a kumihimo, a Japanese form of braid.

There’s a little bit more information on the QE Prize site.

Aperiodical News Roundup – July 2021

Here’s a round-up of the latest mathematical news from the month of July 2021.


The Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics, SIAM, has announced the winners of its 2021 prizes. Winners include: student paper prizes to Yingjie Be, Michelle Feng and Yuanzhao Zhang; the George Pólya Prize for Mathematical Exposition to Nick Higham; and the John von Neumann prize to Chi-Wang Shu.

The Institute of Mathematics and its Applications, the IMA, has also announced some prize winners.

And since we’re talking about mathematicians winning awards, mathematician Anna Kiesenhofer has been awarded a gold medal in the women’s cycling road race at the Tokyo Olympics. For more information, read her 2016 paper Noncommutative integrable systems on b-symplectic manifolds (actually, it may not mention the Olympics at all, sorry).


Controlled study shows link between musical and mathematical ability. The paper is published in the Journal of Research in Music Education. (via MAA)

Laurent Fargues and Fields Medalist Peter Scholze have created “a long-desired bridge between the arithmetic and geometric sides of the Langlands program”, warranting a writeup in the always-excellent Quanta Magazine. (Via @KSHartnett)


If one science communication video contest run by a famous YouTuber this year wasn’t enough, Grant Sanderson (aka 3blue1brown) is running a Summer of Math Exposition. Submit an “explainer of math” to be in with a chance of a $1,000 prize. Imagine the Big Internet Math-Off, but with less voting and an actual prize. Grant announced the competition with a video titled “Why aren’t you making math videos?”:

Because we’re tired, Grant. We’re so tired.

The IMA Black Heroes of Mathematics 2021 conference will take place on the 5th and 6th of October. The vision of the conference is “To celebrate the inspirational contributions of Black role models to the field of Mathematics and Mathematics Education”. The event will include technical talks by internationally renowned Black speakers, incorporating details of their career paths and experience.

Other news

The Protect Pure Maths Campaign, funded by private donations and run by a PR firm in collaboration with the London Mathematical Society, aims to promote and protect pure mathematics research. The family of Alan Turing have added their support to the campaign, to protect what is described in this article in the Guardian as ‘blue skies maths’.

The IMA has announced they’re forming an alliance to create new professional standards for data science.

“The Alliance for Data Science Professionals is defining the standards needed to ensure an ethical and well-governed approach so the public, organisations and governments can have confidence in how their data is used.”

The alliance consists of the Royal Statistical Society (RSS), BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT, the Operational Research Society, the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications, The Alan Turing Institute and the National Physical Laboratory (NPL), supported by the Royal Academy of Engineering and the Royal Society.

Robert Moses, founder of math literacy promotion charity The Algebra Project, has died. The announcement on the project website includes a moving tribute:

“His transition to that higher level only inspires us all to love, struggle and live with and for our people as he did, as we continue to work to realize Bob’s vision of “raising the floor of mathematics literacy” for all young people in the United States of America.”

Brands are at it again with their weird unnecessary anti-maths schtick: take this recent effort from Specsavers in which they state algebra is hard (which it can be sometimes), but also imply it’s ‘silly’, which is pretty short-sighted of them (LOL). Also this month, IMA President and World’s Most Interesting Mathematician Nira Chamberlain has been hassling sofa chain DFS about their TV commercial in which a boy shouts ‘I HATE MATHS’ repeatedly – which may actually have resulted in a change to the broadcast version (and good work if so!). It turns out that calling out this kind of thing sometimes gets results.

And finally, it’s been anounced that the theme for the International Day of Mathematics 2022 will be “Mathematics Unites” (via Nalini Joshi).

A lullaby sequence

A baby in a pram rolling over a sequence of numbers

My son was born last September. While he doesn’t hate sleep as much as his sister did, he still needs a bit of help to drop off.

I’m not at all musically inclined, and I seem unable to remember more than a couple of lines from wordy songs (my version of “Papa’s gonna buy you a mockingbird” rapidly veers into nonsense as I try to think of a rhyme for the next line), so when the girl was little I hit upon the strategy of singing counting songs to lull her off to sleep.