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Aperiodical News Roundup – August and half of September 2021

Here’s a round-up of mathematical and maths-adjacent things that happened in the world this month-and-a-half.

Mathematical News

New record calculation of π – a team in Switzerland have calculated π to a record accuracy of 62.8 trillion digits (that’s around 10 tau trillion – a masterful troll). For more background, read New mathematical record: what’s the point of calculating pi? in the Guardian, which strikes a nice balance between understanding that π is important but that this kind of record-setting is largely stamp collecting.

Illustration showing a graph against a purple background, with certain vertices and edges highlighted in orange.
Image: Quanta Magazine

Odd subgraphs result – There’s also a nice writeup in Quanta of a new proof confirming a fact about odd graphs (that every graph has a subgraph at least $\frac{1}{10000}$ of its own size that contains entirely odd vertices).

P vs NP proof – Logician Martin Dowd is claiming a proof of P≠NP “using a Godel diagonalization argument involving representing formulas”. As per @HigherGeometer’s tweet, mathematicians will be looking for the ‘nearly inevitable slip’, and we’ll report it here if we notice an announcement, probably.

Prime Gap now down to 20 – Another claimed proof, this time by arithmetic geometer Chunlei Liu, confirming that there are infinitely many primes at most 20 apart – an improvement on prior work by Zhang/Polymath8/Tao/Maynard, and using a similar method.

Events & Awards

Awards news – This year’s Royal Society Medals have been awarded, and recipients include Prof. Frances Kirwan who has been awarded the Sylvester Medal “for her research on quotients in algebraic geometry, including links with symplectic geometry and topology, which has had many applications”, and Prof. June Barrow-Green who receives the Wilkins-Bernal-Medawar Medal and Lecture “for her research in 19th and 20th century mathematics, notably on historical roots of modern computing, dynamical systems and the three-body problem. Her work places special emphasis on the under-representation of women in historical narratives and in contemporary mathematics.”

Photo of Prof. Frances Kirwan in a lecture theatre, beside a photo of Prof. June Barrow-Green next to a mathematical sculpture
Prof. Frances Kirwan (left, photo: Gert-Martin Greuel) & Prof. June Barrow-Green (right, photo: Renate Schmid)

Maths competition award nominations – The World Federation of National Mathematics Competitions has put out a call for nominations for the Erdos Award 2022, which recognises the contributions of “mathematicians who have played a significant role in the development of mathematical challenges at the national or international level and which have been a stimulus for the enrichment of mathematics learning”. If you know someone who runs maths competitions and deserves an award, it’d be great to see some more UK winners!

Win a free Schools Workshop – ICMS and Maths Week Scotland are excited to announce a 2021 School Workshop competition, in which Scottish secondary schools can register themselves on the Maths Week Scotland website and enter to win an interactive virtual maths workshop delivered by Ben Sparks or Katie Steckles (that’s me), during Maths Week Scotland.

And Finally

Photograph showing a pamphlet in Specsavers branding colours with the text "Algebra is hard / Contact lenses aren't // Free trial for all ages" resting on someone's knee
Photo: @Runningstitch on Twitter

Nira vs Specsavers – We previously reported on Nira Chamberlain’s social media crusades to stop brands from being flippant about maths – and it looks like he’s had some more success. Following his complaint about an unhelpful leaflet put out by Specsavers (in which algebra was described as ‘silly’ and used as a throwaway example of something hard) they’ve responded to him personally and withdrawn the leaflet.

Gathering For Gardner is postponed again – with a heavy heart, the organisers of Gathering For Gardner 14 have made the tough call, in light of “the continuing worsening of the COVID-19 situation in Georgia, with record-breaking numbers of infections, and an increase in hospitalizations throughout the state”, to postpone this year’s event to 2022. Tickets already booked can be transferred to next year’s event or fully refunded.

Carnival of Mathematics 197

The next issue of the Carnival of Mathematics, rounding up blog posts from the month of August, is now online at Math ∩ Programming.

Screenshot of Jeremy's blog showing Carnival of Mathematics 197

The Carnival rounds up maths blog posts from all over the internet, including some from our own Aperiodical. See our Carnival of Mathematics page for more information.

Mathematical Objects: A sheep, at least one side of which is black

Mathematical Objects

A conversation about mathematical jokes, humour and folklore inspired by a sheep, at least one side of which is black. Presented by Katie Steckles and Peter Rowlett.

The jokes sent to Peter on Twitter that we mention can be found in the replies to this tweet.

A black sheep in a field

Clopen Mic Night – new online maths variety show

Clopen mic night logo, showing a microphone with square and curved brackets emanating from it like sound waves, and the words 'Clopen Mic Night'

The team that brought you the 24 Hour Maths Magic Show last October are at it again, and are planning a semi-regular evening YouTube variety show called Clopen Mic Night, with short segments from a selection of mathematical guests, including comedy, music, demonstrations, magic, puzzles and art, showcasing some top maths communicators and hopefully providing a fun night in. The event is supported by Talking Maths in Public, a network for maths communicators based in the UK, and this first show will take place alongside their 2021 conference event.

It’s called Clopen Mic Night because it’s both an open mic night (in the sense that you’ll see a variety of different people doing different things) and a closed mic night (in that the organisers curate the line-up to ensure a variety of quality acts). If you’ve not encountered the concept of a clopen set, it describes a set that is both open and closed. Usually things are clopen for tedious technical reasons – the empty set and the whole set are both trivially clopen, and most interesting examples crop up in awkwardly-defined sets with non-standard topologies and distance metrics.

The first event is taking place on Thursday 26th August, from 8-9pm, on my YouTube channel, and you can watch along for free, join in with the chat, and drop a coin in our virtual tip bucket if you like what you see. This will hopefully be the first of many such shows (assuming it all goes well!) and for future shows we’ll be looking for acts to join us – anyone participating will also be able to get advice and feedback on their bit in various ways, and we’re hoping it’ll be a chance for people to try out fun new material and showcase the best maths communication has to offer.

For more information about the show, including the lineup for this first event, you can visit the Clopen Mic Night website and sign up for a reminder before each show so you don’t miss it. For updates on future events and how to apply to perform (once that becomes a thing), check the @ClopenMic twitter account.

Mathematical Objects: Plate of biscuits with Alison Kiddle

Mathematical Objects

A conversation about mathematics inspired by a plate of biscuits. Presented by Katie Steckles and Peter Rowlett, with special guest Alison Kiddle. What do you notice? What do you wonder?

Alison’s Noticing and wondering page.

We also mentioned A Problem Squared Episode 014 = Final Cheese Drama and Quick-Fire-O-Rama.

You can see Peter’s kitchen floor in this tweet.

Plate of biscuits described in the episode in two configurations.

Carnival of Mathematics 196

The next issue of the Carnival of Mathematics, rounding up blog posts from the month of July, is now online at ThatsMaths.

The Carnival rounds up maths blog posts from all over the internet, including some from our own Aperiodical. See our Carnival of Mathematics page for more information.