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Maths at the British Science Festival 2018

British Science Festival logoGuest author Kevin Houston has written a round-up of maths-related events at next week’s British Science Festival.

The British Science Festival is taking place in Hull and the Humber 11-14th September. There are lots of talks so I’ve put together a handy guide to talks with a mathematics-related theme.

5th July is LGBT STEM Day

Today (5th July) is the first LGBT STEM day, a celebration of LGBTQ+ people working in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Organised by charitable trust Pride in STEM and supported by 42 STEM organisations including the RSC, IOP, CERN and ESA, it’s an opportunity to recognise and celebrate our LGBTQ+ colleagues, and to focus on what we can do to support them.

MathsJam Gathering: A Review

General conference goings-on; Photo by Steve Kirkby ( was with trepidation that I booked tickets for the MathsJam Gathering in 2015. I loved the sound of the event, but what if everyone else was cleverer than me? What if people thought I was a fraud because I wasn’t an academic? What if nobody talked to me? I needn’t have worried. MathsJam is one of the friendliest, most welcoming events I’ve ever experienced. Lots of people talked to me, I learned new things, I laughed a lot. I’ve since been to two more gatherings, and have already booked for the next one in November.

How to join in with our distributed Wiki edit day

Karen editing Wikipedia on her laptopYou may have seen our post last month about our remote Wiki Editing Day, this coming Saturday 12th May. We’re hoping to get a bunch of people in different locations editing pages on Wikiquote and other Wikimedia sites, to improve the visibility of female mathematicians. Here’s how you can get involved.

Wikiquote edit-a-thon – Saturday, May 12th, 2018

TL;DR: We’re holding a distributed Wikipedia edit-a-thon on Saturday, May 12th, 2018 from 10am to improve the visibility of women mathematicians on the Wikiquotes Mathematics page. Join in from wherever you are! Details below, and in this Google Doc.

Extension and abstraction without apparent direction or purpose is fundamental to the discipline. Applicability is not the reason we work, and plenty that is not applicable contributes to the beauty and magnificence of our subject.
– Peter Rowlett, “The unplanned impact of mathematics”, Nature 475, 2011, pp. 166-169.

Trying to solve real-world problems, researchers often discover that the tools they need were developed years, decades or even centuries earlier by mathematicians with no prospect of, or care for, applicability.
– Peter Rowlett, “The unplanned impact of mathematics”, Nature 475, 2011, pp. 166-169.

There is no way to guarantee in advance what pure mathematics will later find application. We can only let the process of curiosity and abstraction take place, let mathematicians obsessively take results to their logical extremes, leaving relevance far behind, and wait to see which topics turn out to be extremely useful. If not, when the challenges of the future arrive, we won’t have the right piece of seemingly pointless mathematics to hand.
Peter Rowlett, “The unplanned impact of mathematics”, Nature 475, 2011, pp. 166-169.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I have every admiration for Peter and his work; his is a thoughtful voice of reason, and it’s not at all unreasonable for the Wikiquote page on mathematics to cite his writing.

LMS Meeting in honour of Maryam Mirzakhani

Mirzakhani in 2014

The London Mathematical Society are organising an event later this month in honour of the late Fields Medalist Maryam Mirzakhani. It's at the University of Warwick on 22nd March, and will include talks outlining some of Mirzakhani's work, followed by a drinks reception and dinner. The event is part of a larger EPSRC symposium on Teichmüller dynamics.

More information and registration