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Aperiodical News Roundup – February 2023

Here’s a round-up of the news stories not covered on the site over the past month.

Prizes and Appointments

Baroness Ingrid Daubechies is the first woman to be awarded the Wolf Prize in Mathematics. Awarded annually to outstanding scientists and artists from around the world since 1978, the award consists of a certificate and a monetary award of $100,000. (via Nalini Joshi)

Collage titled "Meet our community mathematician", with four photos of Ayliean, a woman with brightly coloured hair, holding geometrical objects, a pineapple, and sitting next to a huge origami crane.

Maths communicator and TikToker Ayliean MacDonald has been appointed the first Community Mathematician at MathsCity Leeds. Ayliean will run a series of workshops and events at MathsCity, and wants to make maths a multi-sensory experience – sessions will include maths art activities, craft workshops, and maths-inspired food tasting!

The New Government chief scientific adviser Professor Dame Angela McLean is a mathematical biologist. Her PhD thesis was on ‘Mathematical models of the epidemiology of measles in developing countries’ and she has been active in creating models of COVID as a high-profile member of SAGE and SPI-M-O.

Other News

The OEIS foundation is looking to raise $3m to fund a full-time managing editor. Founded by Neil Sloane in 1964, the site has so far been run by volunteers, but now a committee of board members has been set up to help raise the necessary funds for an endowment. They have also released the entire source data of the encyclopedia on GitHub, under a Creative Commons Attribute Share-Alike licence. Previously, the data was available in a less-convenient form and only under a licence forbidding commercial use.

Humans can beat AI at Go again! As this article in the FT reports, Amateur Kellin Pelrine has found and exploited weakness in strategy systems that have otherwise dominated strategies used by the game’s grandmasters. (via @moreisdifferent)

The Office for Statistics Regulation has written to HM Treasury to tell it off for tweeting a graph with a non-zero vertical axis. The graph, which showed inflation statistics for January, started from 8% and “gives a misleading impression of the scale of the deceleration in inflation”.

And finally: well-loved mathematician and metagrobologist David Singmaster has died. He passed away earlier this month, and Lucas Garron has been collecting people’s memories of David Singmaster.

Aperiodical News Roundup – January 2023

Here’s a round-up of news stories from January 2023.

Maths forever news

The British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has announced that all students will study maths to age 18. The response has been varied, with commentators from both within mathematics and from non-mathematical backgrounds weighing in (with varying degrees of nuance).

However, this isn’t planned to happen soon – only to start the work to introduce this during this Parliament, with actual implementation to happen at an unspecified point in the future.

It’s worth noting that there is a shortage of maths teachers, with nearly half of schools currently using non-specialist maths teachers, according to the TES.

The fact this might make maths a political football is a bit of a problem – the opposition Labour party say “they’ve nothing to offer the country except double maths”. (As much as we love maths, we’ll agree there are more important things to worry about at the moment).

Tech news

The Chrome browser, and eventually other browsers built on it such as Edge and Opera, can now render MathML without any additional libraries as of version 109. Chrome briefly had some support for MathML, which was removed in 2013 due to lack of interest from Google. The developers who were working on it have kept plugging away, funded by the open source software consultancy Igalia.

Until now, the only reliable way to display mathematical notation on the web has been to use a JavaScript library such as MathJax or KaTeX, which do all the work of laying out symbols using generic HTML elements.

Now, you can just put MathML code in a page and expect most browsers to display it, like this:

1 x 2 + 1

There’s still a need for MathJax and the like: writing MathML code is no fun, so they’re still useful for translating LaTeX code, and MathJax adds a range of annotations that help with accessibility. But this is a step towards mathematical notation being much easier to work with on the web!

Other news

Comic strip style poster titled "Math is the Hero".

The US National Academies have released a series of posters “Illustrating the impact of the mathematical sciences”.

CLP’s place of work still has some Millennium Maths Project posters clinging on to the walls, older than almost all of the students, so maybe it’s time for a refresh! (via Terence Tao)

Tim Austin is the new Regius professor mathematics at Warwick. (via Warwick Mathematics Institute)

A bit of bureaucracy news: the Council for the Mathematical Sciences, comprising the five learned societies for maths and stats in the UK, is creating a new Academy for the Mathematical Sciences. It looks like the societies for the different sub-disciplines have acknowledged they need to work together, though this gives off a “now you have n+1 standards” smell. They’ve got a nice logo, though.

The Financial Times style guide changed so that ‘data’ is always singular, pragmatically following common usage. FT writer Alan Beattie said it best: “For anyone opposed, I’d like to know what your agendum is.


The London Mathematical Society will hold a ceremony in London on 22nd March to officially award the Christopher Zeeman medal to the 2020 and 2022 medallists, Matt Parker and Simon Singh.

The ICMS in Edinburhgh has launched a “Maths for Humanity” initiative, which will be “devoted to education, research, and scholarly exchange having direct relevance to the ways in which mathematics, broadly construed, can contribute to the betterment of humanity.” (via Terence Tao)

And finally

Yuri Marin has died. The Max Planck Institute has posted an obituary describing his life’s work. One of his PhD students, Arend Bayer, collected some memories in a Mastodon thread.

William ‘Bill’ Lawvere has died. There is a page on the nLab describing his life’s work.

Aperiodical News Roundup – December 2022

Here’s a roundup of the maths news we missed in December 2022.

Maths News

The leap second, referred to in this Independent article as a ‘devastating time quirk’, is finally being abolished. This has been covered in a bunch of places, mostly being quite rude about the leap second, including a writeup in the New York Times where it’s referred to as ‘a kludge, a bain, a pain in the little hand’ (£), and this Live Science article (‘pesky’). A committee at the International Bureau of Weights and Measures apparently nearly unanimously voted in support of Resolution D, meaning there won’t be any leap seconds from 2035 until at least 2135.

A photo of Rachel Greenfield, a white female mathematician, wearing a polo neck and jeans and talking in front of a blackboard

Anti-maths news! Princeton mathematician Rachel Greenfield (pictured left – photo by Dan Komoda/Institute for Advanced Study), working with Fields Medalist Terry Tao, has posted a disproof of the periodic tiling conjecture. A preprint titled ‘A counterexample to the periodic tiling conjecture‘ is now on the ArXiv, and if it’s correct, means that any finite subset of a lattice which tiles that lattice by translations, must tile it periodically. There’s a nice explanation in the Quanta writeup!

Meanwhile there’s been a new claimed proof of the 4-colour theorem, which is non-constructive (meaning it doesn’t rely on finding a colouring for every possible map, but proves the theorem generally). Some people have been skeptical about the proof, including in this statement from Noam Zeilberger, which links to a Mastodon discussion with John Carlos Baez. (via Neil Calkin on Mastodon)

Another claimed proof – this time of the sunflower conjecture. A k-sunflower is a family of k different sets with common pair-wise intersections, and the conjecture gives conditions for when such a thing must exist.

ArXiv has posted a framework for improving the accessibility of research papers on – their plan is to offer html as well as PDF versions of papers. (via Deyan Ginev)


Logo for 'What We Cannot Know', consisting of the words disappearing into a background of stripes fading from red to blue

Bright-trouser-wearer and mathematician Marcus Du Sautoy is offering a free OU online course, entitled ‘What we cannot know’. Find out how he manages to break the rules of reality by facilitating you knowing something that it’s by definition impossible to know, by signing up online for the 8-week course (which can also be accessed without signing in but then you don’t get a badge).

A photo of Hannah Fry, a young woman with long red hair, smiling while wearing a black top, with one elbow resting on a table
Any excuse to include a photo of HF ❤️

As part of their Elevating Mathematics video competition, the National Academies Board on Mathematical Sciences and Analytics (BMSA) invites early career professionals and students who use maths in their work to submit short video elevator speeches describing how their work in mathematics is important and relevant to our everyday lives, with a $1000 Prize for the best video.

And finally, in a rare instance of us linking to the Hollywood Reporter, Hannah Fry is to front a science and tech series for Bloomberg, entitled The Future With Hannah Fry. Sounds great! It’ll be available on Bloomberg’s Quicktake streaming service and will explore breakthroughs in artificial intelligence, crypto (not clear if -graphy or -currency), climate, chemistry and ethics.

Aperiodical News Roundup – November 2022

Here’s a roundup of things that happened online in November that we didn’t cover here at the time!

Maths Research News

According to an article on philosophy news site Daily Nous, an international symbolic logic journal printed then shortly retracted two articles, one entitled  “The Twin Primes Conjecture is True in the Standard Model of Peano Arithmetic: Applications of Rasiowa–Sikorski Lemma in Arithmetic” and the other “There are Infinitely Many Mersenne Prime Numbers. Applications of Rasiowa–Sikorski Lemma in Arithmetic“. After a discussion on MathOverflow, mistakes were found in both papers, and the journal’s editor posted:

Recently two articles on the applications of the Rasiowa-Sikorski Lemma to arithmetic were published online in Studia Logica without proper examination and beyond reasonable standards of scholarly rigor. As it turned out, they contained an irrrepairable mistake and, consequently, have been retracted from the journal’s website. The papers will not appear in print.

Studia Logica editor-in-chief Jacek Malinowski

(via Catarina Dutilh Novaes on Twitter, whose thread includes some clarifications.)

An arrangement of blue dots in a Life grid generating the digits 1,2,3 moving up the screen
Gliders producing decimal digits

According to Conway’s Life, a blog which documents developments in research around Conway’s Game of Life, on November 9, 2022 Pavel Grankovskiy discovered that 15 gliders can make any pattern in Conway’s game of life. Given a particular shape, the gliders can be set up to create it (eventually) beating a recent record of 16 gliders. (via Oscar Cunningham on mathstodon,xyz:)

Fields medalist Terry Tao reports some progress on the union closed sets conjecture, an open problem in combinatorics, which has seen rapid developments thanks to (in Tao’s words) ‘maths at internet speed’.

Other News

As of 11th November, applications for Young Researchers for the Heidelberg Laureate Forum 2023 are open. If you or someone you know is a researcher in maths or computer science at undergrad or postgrad level, and would like to spend a week next September in a lovely town in Germany meeting the world’s most decorated mathematicians and computer scientists, you should consider applying!

The latest issue of The Mathematics Enthusiast is a special issue collecting 29 reviews of popular maths books by maths educators, including Matt Parker, Hannah Fry, Eugenia Cheng, Simon Singh and Jordan Ellenberg among many others. If you’re looking for new pop maths book recommendations, it’s a good place to start!

Photo of the Earth and Jupiter in space
Check out these absolute units (Image: NASA/Brian0918/ Wikipedia Commons)

It was announced earlier this month that having discovered sufficiently many very big and very small numbers, it’s time for some new SI prefixes: ronna-, ronto-, quetta- and quecto- have joined the ranks of things that make numbers bigger and smaller, allowing you to describe itty bitty quantities as small as $10^{-27}$ (ronto) and $10^{-30}$ (quecto), as well as chonky numeros in the region of $10^{27}$ (ronna) and $10^{30}$ (quetta). The earth weighs 6 ronnagrams, and Jupiter is about 2 quettagrams.

“‘R’ and ‘Q’ were the only letters left in the English alphabet that hadn’t been used by other prefixes.”

Richard Brown, National Physical Laboratory

And in computer news, Google Chrome now supports MathML core, a language for describing mathematical notation embeddable in HTML and SVG. (via axel rauschmayer)

Aperiodical News Roundup – October 2022


AI research company DeepMind said that their AlphaTensor system has discovered a new way to multiply matrices, citing this as the first such advance since the Strassen algorithm was proposed in 1969. AlphaTensor found thousands of algorithms for multiplying matrices of different sizes, but most were not better than the state of the art. Specifically, it found an algorithm for multiplying \(5 \times 5\) matrices in \(\mathbb{Z}_2\) in just 96 operations. There’s a paper in Nature describing how the algorithm was found.

It’s not all over for us humans just yet, though: the DeepMind announcement prompted two algebraists at Linz University, Jakob Moosbauer and Manuel Kauers, to see if they could do even better. After a few days of thought, they published The FBHHRBNRSSSHK-Algorithm for Multiplication in $\mathbb{Z}_2^{5\times5}$ is still not the end of the story on the arXiv, giving an algorithm which does the multiplication in only 95 steps.

Meanwhile, in other computers-helping-humans news, the Lean 3 library mathlib has made it to 100,000 theorems, none of which have been left as an exercise for the reader.


The IMA and LMS have joined forces to offer a new university access programme called Levelling Up: Maths, which aims to address the difficulties that young people of Black heritage face in STEM. A-level students can join the programme, and will be able to access teaching and mentoring in virtual tutorial groups with Black heritage undergraduates, as well as events with Black guest speakers. The programme is also supported by the RAEng, BCS, IOP RSC, MEI and STEM Learning, as well as the Association for Black & Minority Ethnic Engineers (AFBE-UK) and Black British Professionals in STEM (BBSTEM).

What Can Mathematicians Do? is a series of free online public maths presentations organised by Newcastle University’s School of Mathematics, Statistics and Physics, covering a wide range of topics such as how colours mix, how to make a mint on the stock market, and how to pick your next Netflix binge. Aimed at students in school years 10 to 13, the talks are all given by disabled presenters: to show that anyone can be a mathematician, and mathematicians can do anything.

And finally: last weekend, a group of maths communicators (including several Aperiodical editors and regulars) put together a live online 24-hour Mathematical Game Show, featuring mathematical games, games with a mathematical twist, the maths of games and games about maths. The show has raised nearly £5000 for a collection of excellent charities, and the whole show is available to watch back in half-hour or 1-hour segments.

And finally

Nick Berry of the Data Genetics blog has died. The site ran for over a decade, and was described by Alex Bellos as ‘one of best examples of maths outreach on the web […] A brilliant cabinet of curiosities’. Nick passed away peacefully at home on Saturday October 8th after a long battle with cancer. (via Alex Bellos on Twitter)

Phil Goldstein, aka magician Max Maven, has died. Max Maven popularised the Gilbreath principle, which underlies a host of astonishing mathematical card tricks. (via Colm Mulcahy on Twitter)

Aperiodical News Roundup – September 2022

Here’s a roundup of mathematical news stories we didn’t get round to writing about yet this month.