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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.

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).

Aperiodical News Roundup – June 2021

Here’s a round-up of mathematical things that happened in June, and things you might want to know about that are happening in the future!


News In Brief

Thumbnail of Veritasium video 'A Physics Prof Bet Me $10,000 I'm wrong' with an image of the two physicists and the caption 'Who's right'
  • YouTuber and PhD physicist Derek Muller (Veritasium) has recently been involved in a physics-off with UCLA professor Alexander Kusenko, when they disagreed over the explanation behind a physical phenomenon, which escalated to a $10,000 bet over who was right. Long story short, Veritasium won the bet (as covered in this IFLScience news story) and will be using the money to fund a science communication contest. If you’ve got an under-a-minute maths/science video you can post on YouTube or TikTok, you could win a prize of up to $5,000. Props to Derek for encouraging more STEM communication and promoting new talent!
  • It’s been formally announced that Neil Sloane is stepping down as president of the OEIS – Russ Cox will take over presidential duties, while Sloane steps down to Chairman of the Board so he can dedicate more time to his writing projects (which we’re assured ‘naturally involve sequences’). Cox has been involved with the OEIS for over 25 years and has been a major contributor to the backend software that makes the site run, so he’s a safe pair of hands to take the project on.
  • The eleven 2021 LMS Prize winners were announced at the Society’s Meeting on 2nd July, and the prizes recognise contributions to mathematics in a variety of areas. (via @LondMathSoc)

Alan Turing £50 note launches

On 23rd June the new Alan Turing £50 note was launched, featuring an image of Turing, a quote and various mathematical diagrams. Bletchley Park marked the occasion with a #Turing50Takeover, and the Bank of England has a whole page of info about the new polymer note on their website.

Meanwhile, in Turing-adjacent news, the National Museum of Computing has launched an online Virtual Enigma machine you can use to simulate the device behind the famous Enigma code, along with a video explaining the machine. This joins a host of other virtual historical computers they’ve built, including the Colossus that cracked the code, the Lorenz machine and even ERNIE the random number generator!

Computer graphic Enigma machine on a table.
Virtual Enigma Machine

Claimed proof of Riemann Hypothesis

Another claimed proof of the Riemann Hypothesis, this time by Kumar Easwaran, emerged this month, and since like all big claims it would need thorough checking before acceptance by the mathematical community, there was some initial skepticism. (This didn’t stop the media from latching on to it as an exciting story though). Since claimed proofs of Riemann are like buses, many mathematicians don’t give them much attention, but Alex Kontorovich took the time to thoroughly debunk this one to save you the trouble.

If you want some actual Riemann Hypothesis news, here’s some: John Baez reports that Alain Connes and Caterina Consani have made some potential progress on part of the problem. In the words of Baez, “my interest is piqued”.

Interesting Links

Thuses is a website for mathematicians to publish and discuss ideas of interest to the mathematical community. It’s described as “a perfect place to share new approaches, slick proofs, and surprising counterexamples. A place for ‘folklore results’ that are considered known but don’t actually exist in literature. A place for everything in math that just has to be shared.” (via Piper H)

The Royal Society has published a set of papers on modelling that shaped the early COVID-19 pandemic response in the UK as a special journal issue that’s free to access.

The BSHM (British Society for the History of Mathematics) has launched the Bibby Awards in the History of Mathematics, for “contributions to the popularization of the history of mathematics in education”. Named after (and funded by the legacy of) the late BSHM member Neil Bibby, up to four awards of £400 can be made each academic year, in return for which holders are expected to give two free talks in schools and produce four digital resources (videos, PDFs or interactives) for the BSHM website. (via Sarah Hart)


Sir Michael Atiyah holding a microphone
Sir Michael Atiyah (image: INI)

The Isaac Newton Institute in Cambridge is hosting The unity of mathematics: A conference in honour of Sir Michael Atiyah which will take place in September 2021 as a hybrid event with a mixture of in-person and virtual talks. The closing date for registration for physical participants is 8th August.

There’s just about still time to register for the People, Places, Practices History of Maths Conference (registration closes 9th July) taking place 12-15 July online (coordinated by the University of St. Andrews). With around 90 speakers contributing, the programme looks packed, and talks will be available to watch ahead, or at the specified time to be followed by a live Q&A.

Konstantin Kotov holding a sign with a photo of Azat Miftakhov and a caption in Russian
Konstantin Kotov protesting in support of Azat Miftakhov in Moscow (CC BY-SA Natdemina)

Alexandre Borovik reports on his blog about Azat Miftakhov day, an event organised online by the Azat Miftakhov committee in solidarity with Azat Miftakhov – a graduate student from Moscow State University who was sentenced to six years in a medium-security penal colony and has already been arbitrarily detained by Russian state authorities for almost two and a half years. Fields medalist Cedric Villani made a speech at the event, and you can watch videos from the event on YouTube.

Particularly mathematical Birthday Honours 2021

It’s that time of year when we take a look at the UK Government’s Queen’s Birthday Honours list for any particularly mathematical entries. Here our the selection for this year – any more, let us know in the comments and we’ll add to the list.

Get the full list here.

Cheltenham Science Festival 2021 preview

Cheltenham Science Festival logo

Cheltenham Science Festival starts this week, running from 10 – 13 June.  This year, the event has a hybrid format, with a combination of socially-distanced talks, live and online workshops, and free live streaming of many of the events.  Tickets remain available for many of the events and workshops.  Check the website or download the brand new Cheltenham Festivals app for details.

Aperiodical News Roundup – May 2021

Here’s a round-up of mathematical news from the month of May.

The film Words of Women in Mathematics in the Time of Corona showcases the words of 86 women of mathematics from 37 countries, speaking in 25 languages, on their experience during the pandemic. The project website says:

This pandemic has indeed made women, and in particular women in mathematics, more invisible than ever and we hope that this project will contribute to letting them be heard and seen.

(via Tony Mann)

Mathematician, IMA president and one-time World’s Most Interesting Mathematician Nira Chamberlain appeared on Jim Al-Khalili’s excellent radio show The Life Scientific, and talked about how mathematics can solve real-world problems.

The adventures of Mathina. An illustration showing two children in a rural landscape, with a castle in the distance. Two buttons, labelled "Start Exploring!" and "Introduction"

Mathina is an interactive story book, “based on story-driven experiences, in which children and young learners encounter fictional characters that find themselves in mathematical adventures”. It looks cool! (via Martin Skrodzki)

I is a Strange Loop is a theatrical play, written and performed by mathematician Marcus du Sautoy and mathematician/actor Victoria Gould (formerly Polly off Eastenders). A performance was streamed live on 25th May, and available to watch back on the Oxford Uni maths YouTube channel. The script of the play is also available to buy in book form.

Jean-Michel Bismut and Jeff Cheeger

The winners of the Shaw Prize, “an international award to honour individuals who have recently achieved distinguished and significant advances in their respective fields”, have been announced for 2021, including the Shaw Prize in Mathematical Sciences. This is awarded in equal shares to Prof Jean-Michel Bismut and Prof Jeff Cheeger (pictured right, floating in an abstract mathematical universe), “for their remarkable insights that have transformed, and continue to transform, modern geometry”.

And finally, Turkish mathematician Tuna Altinel has his passport back after two years of fighting the Turkish courts. Altinel was detained by Turkish authorities and his passport confiscated on the grounds of “membership in a terrorist organisation”, due to his attempts to promote peace and support human rights as part of the group Academics for Peace.

More information in this piece from Inside Higher Ed

See also: The case of Azat Miftakhov.

(via Jordan Ellenberg on Twitter)