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Aperiodical News Roundup – February 2022

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

Ukraine

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.

Prizes

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.

Aperiodical News Roundup – January 2022

Here’s a roundup of some of the mathematical things that happened in the first month of the year.

Aperiodical News Roundup – December 2021

Here’s a roundup of news stories from December 2021 that we didn’t cover at the time.

Maths results

Firstly, some nice news of a proof of a result on the density of unit fractions – a set of integers of positive density must contain distinct $n_1,\dots,n_k$ such that $\frac{1}{n_1}+\ldots+\frac{1}{n_k}=1$. (via Thomas Bloom)


According to this post on Gil Kalai’s blog, Ringel’s circle problem has been solved. The problem states:

Consider a finite family of circles such that every point in the plane is included in at most two circles. What is the minimum number of colors needed to color the circles so that tangent circles are colored with different colors?

Turns out, you might need all the colours – the authors of a new ArXiV paper have found ways to construct families of circles in the plane such that their tangency graphs have arbitrarily large girth and chromatic number.


A portion of the analytical engine built by Charles Babbage, at the Science Museum
Photo: CC BY-SA Mrjohncummings

Plan 28, a project aiming to collect and understand Babbage’s notes about the analytical engine (and possibly finish building it) has issued a statement to the effect that they now think they understand all of the designs – an exciting step forward.

We have for the first time both an aerial view that integrates partial and seemingly unrelated developments, as well as the most detailed analysis yet of the specifics of implementation.

The group are hoping to be able to rewrite these notes into a format that can be used to build a physical implementation of the machine, as Babbage’s original notes didn’t include a design for a complete engine, and the work so far has taken five years. This is exactly the kind of unnecessary nerdery I love to see.

Prizes

Per Nalini Joshi on Twitter, Serena Dipierro has been awarded the Australian Mathematics Society medal for 2021, which is given within 15 years of the award of someone’s PhD for distinguished research in the mathematical sciences. According to the AustMS citation,

Professor Serena Dipierro (University of Western Australia) has made outstanding contributions to the area of analysis and PDEs, with a special focus on the theory of nonlocal operators and free boundary problems. She is a prolific researcher with a large international network of collaborators and has become one of the leaders of her field. In the nine years since the award of her PhD, her publications have amassed over 1100 citations in the MathSciNet database; since moving to Australia in 2016 she has averaged one publication per month, including many in journals of the highest quality.


rs3

According to a blog post by Gil Kalai, Richard Stanley has won the Leroy P. Steele prize, awarded annually by the AMS for distinguished research work and writing in mathematics. According to the announcement,

Stanley has revolutionized enumerative combinatorics, revealing deep connections with other branches of mathematics, such as commutative algebra, topology, algebraic geometry, probability, convex geometry, and representation theory. In doing so, he solved important longstanding combinatorial problems, often reinvigorating these other fields with new combinatorial methods. Through his outstanding research; excellent expository works; and many PhD students, collaborators and colleagues, he continues to influence the field of combinatorics worldwide.

Bad news

Photograph of Jacques Tits, an old white bald French man

In early December, the European Mathematical Society announced that Jacques Tits (pictured left) has died.

Jacques Tits was a highly influential group-theorist, proving the celebrated “Tits Alternative” (that every finitely generated linear group either has a solvable subgroup of finite index or contains a free subgroup of rank 2). Probably his most important contribution was the development of group-theoretic “Buildings”, a profound unifying idea which has subsequently had deep applications in diverse mathematical fields.


Following the publication of a fairly painful article in The Times just before Christmas entitled ‘Phwoar! Look at the vital statistics on these lads’ and listing the apparently increasingly attractive, and exclusively male, mathematicians and statisticians responsible for ‘crunching the data’ on the pandemic, the i newspaper published this excellent response pointing out the shocking news that some mathematicians who aren’t men have also been involved, and highlighting some of the top data experts who’ve been looking after us all with maths. The Times article includes a quote from “maths professor and author Hannah Fry — a woman” (that is literally actually what it says) who had correctly expressed on Twitter that mathematicians are hot – but I’m pretty sure she meant all of us and not just men.


Speaking of bad opinion pieces, what better way to sum up the year than this collection of terrible maths takes? Highlights include ‘How does misogyny impede a mathematician of doing a good job?’ [sic] and the wonderful ‘Physics is not math.’


The American Mathematical Society has cancelled this year’s Joint Mathematics Meetings, scheduled to take place in Seattle on 5-8 Jan, and will be refunding tickets and organising an online event instead. Unfortunately, they initially failed to notify attendees of this by email, and many found out via Twitter.

The AMS also announced in mid-December that they were shutting down all their blogs with two weeks’ notice. The AMS Blogs site has been replaced with an archive collecting all the past posts, but those who used it as a regular blogging outlet will have to find somewhere else to do that. (Hi!)

And finally

Dynamic geometry powerhouse Geogebra has been bought by an online tutoring company called BYJU’S, run by a group of former maths teachers from India. They’ve stated that all current employees, contracts, agreements and software licenses will remain in place, and the software and online resources will continue to be free to use. (via Geogebra on twitter)


PROMYS Europe is a programme designed to encourage mathematically ambitious secondary school students to explore the creative world of mathematics. Competitively selected pre-university students from around Europe gather at Wadham College, Oxford for six weeks of rigorous mathematical activity. This summer it will run from 10th July – 20th August, and applications open on 11th January.


Gathering 4 Gardner’s 2022 Wall Calendar is now available to download and print, and some print copies are also available. Including important dates of huge mathematical significance (my birthday, among others) and a selection of bios, sketches, photos and puzzles any maths fan would enjoy, it’s the perfect solution if you forgot to get a calendar and like maths.


The Geometry Center videos, which brought brought concepts from geometric topology to general audiences through computer-generated visualisation in the early 1990s, have been remastered and are available for free. (via Robin Houston)

If you spot something you think should be in a future Aperiodical News Roundup, send it our way!

Aperiodical News Roundup – November 2021

Here’s a roundup of some of the news stories from the world of maths in the month of November.

Events

Photo of headshots of women mathematicians featured in the film as well as a blackboard

Eugenie Hunsicker and collaborators have produced a film entitled “Words of Women in Mathematics in the Time of Corona”, which raises awareness of the impact of the pandemic on women in mathematics.

The QE Prize for Engineering’s ‘Month of Making’, as featured previously in a post announcing the start, is well under way and continues until 12th December, with scientific, mathematical and engineeringy ideas for make-it-yourself gifts every day.

This month saw the official launch of MathsCity Leeds, as previously covered in this review by hands-on discovery centre correspondent Peter and his son.

Photo of MathsWorldUK Committee and Support Team in the discovery centre, with Katie and Paul watching an interactive demonstration of pendulums in the background top right
MathsWorldUK Committee and Support Team, with the Aperiodical’s Katie and Paul hiding in the background top right (Photo: North East Post)

Leading mathematicians, council members, and key professionals from tourist attractions and universities across the country were just some of the guests that attended the bustling launch party last night for the UK’s first maths discovery centre. […] Celebrating the milestone achievement by the pioneering charity MathsWorldUK, the MathsCity launch was an opportunity to show donors, supporters, and future investors why the innovative new attraction that opened its doors in Leeds City Centre last month is so important for the future.

North East Post
Text from screenshot: This proposal has reached 100% commitment. We are preparing for its launch and expect to create it soon.

Attempts to start a proof assistants stack exchange have been successful, and the Stack Exchange team are “are preparing for its launch and expect to create it soon”. (via Andrej Bauer)

A new paper has been published in Nature about the use of machine learning in pure maths research. This isn’t machine learning making new maths, but rather it’s pitched as a collaboration between mathematician and machine – the authors argue that machine learning can be used “to guide intuition and propose conjectures”. The paper gives some examples of new fundamental results in pure mathematics that have been discovered with the assistance of machine learning.

Open Calls

How maths helps people - Poster Ccompetition. Photos of the earth from space, a syringe, a brush fire, a crowd and a whale. www.mathscareers.org.uk. IMA and Maths Careers logo.

The IMA has launched a poster competition called How Maths Helps People, in which high school students are asked to design an A4 “persuasive poster which shows how maths can be used to help people”. The poster should be aimed at high school students, and students with winning posters in each age group will receive an Android tablet. The closing date is 31st January 2022.

A photograph of a group of young researchers, standing in a modern building, grouped around a seated old bearded internet evangelist
Vint Cerf at HLF 2014 (Photo: HLFF)

The LMS has announced its annual call for nominations for its 2022 prizes, which are awarded in various categories for mathematical research, innovation and exposition.

Recreational Maths Magazine has issued a call for proposals for its upcoming π-themed issue, which will be their first specially themed issue. Calls close on 14th March 2022 (obviously).

The Heidelberg Laureate Forum, which takes place in September in Heidelberg, Germany, and brings together top-level maths laureates with young researchers for a week of lectures, workshops and networking has announced that applications for young researchers to attend HLF 2022 are now open. If you know any PhD or postdoc mathematicians who would like a chance to meet some cool people and have a great trip to Germany, encourage them to apply!

Aperiodical News Roundup – October 2021

Here’s all the latest, and slightly later, news from the past month.

Awards & Prizes

Mathematician Professor Christina Pagel has been given a Special Recognition Award for Public Engagement in Science during the Covid 19 Pandemic by the BMJ (British Medical Journal). Throughout the pandemic, she’s been explaining and interpreting scientific papers, data, and news reports, helping to boost understanding and transparency through in-depth Twitter threads, TV news appearances and pieces in and print and online media.
BMJ website list of winnersUCL press release

A new £560 million numeracy scheme, ‘Multiply’, has been announced as part of the recent budget to support up to 500,000 adults with low numeracy. The scheme includes free courses for adults without a GCSE Grade C/4 in maths, and programmes for employers to bring in training for at-work qualifications.
National Numeracy press releaseInformation on Government Education Hub

Events

The annual Big MathsJam Gathering will be taking place online on the weekend of 20th & 21st November, and bookings will open imminently – head to the Gathering website to add yourself to the list to be notified when it does. Tickets will cost £10 (£5 unwaged) for a weekend of talks, discussion, sharing and puzzles on spatial audio platform Gather.town. As well as thinking about what you might like to submit a 5-minute talk about, you can prepare for the MathsJam activities including a mathematical bakeoff, a Competition Competition and the MathsJam Jam sing-a-long, which this year will involve recording yourself singing a track along with others, to listen back to the combined recordings on the day – details on the website, with a submission deadline of 12th November.

Mathigon website header, showing a book open with a large number of mathematical objects spilling out including a mobius band, sunflower, playing cards, various polyhedra and polyominoes, a ruler and compass and dice. The background looks like space.

Excellent maths interactives website and online ‘textbook of the future’ Mathigon has been acquired by US education publisher Amplify. According to the Mathigon press release, “Mathigon’s beautiful, interactive online learning platform will continue to be offered for free and will strengthen Amplify’s math offerings.”

Maths News

Queen Elizabeth Chess Moves | Know Your Meme
Be careful, she can move in any direction

Quanta Magazine reports, beautifully as always, that there’s been some progress on the n-Queens problem, which is about finding how many different ways queens can be placed on a chessboard so that none attack each other. Since the problem is difficult to simplify, it’s historically been a case of crunching through all the possibilities, but the new breakthrough pinpoints the number of positions on an n-by-n board by sandwiching it between upper and lower bounds that now coincide.

According to Science News, “An elusive equation describing bird eggs of all shapes has been found at last”. Now, if you simply know the egg’s length, its maximum breadth, its diameter at the spot where its pointed end terminates and the location of its maximum diameter in relationship to the midpoint of its length, you can calculate its volume. An elusive equation describing bird eggs of all shapes has been found at last, on Science News (via Rachel Crowell)

Aperiodical News Roundup – September 2021

Here’s a collection of some things that have been happening (and will be happening) in maths this month (and next month).

Awards

The British Society for the History of Mathematics have announced their annual Neil Bibby Awards, which have been awarded to Ciarán Mac an Bhaird and Michael Barany. The award winners receive £400 each, and will be expected to deliver some schools talks and produce resources for the BHSM website. More information about the Bibby Awards can be found on the BSHM website. (via @MathsHistory on Twitter).

The British Society for the History of Mathematics have also announced the winners of their annual schools and undergraduate essay prizes:

  • Schools Writing Prize (11-15 category): Daria Gal (Notting Hill and Ealing High School, London) for ‘Mathematics and the mysterious world of creating gold’;
  • Schools Writing Prize winner for 2021 (category 16-19): Carys Williams (Monmouth School for Girls, UK) for ‘A story of secrecy and security: the key to unlocking prime numbers’;
  • Undergraduate Prize winners, jointly: Ellen Flower (Oxford University) for ‘The “analysis” of a century: Influences on the etymological development of the word “analysis” in a mathematical context to 1750’ and George Waters (London School of Economics) for ‘Exploring the use of mathematics to obtain consensus’.

These winners and the runners up for each prize are announced in this Twitter thread: “Our Schools and Undergraduate Prizes announcements!!!”.

Money, Dollars, Sack, Bag, Icon, Bag Of Money

Carnegie Mellon University has been gifted $20 million by blockchain pioneer Charles Hoskinson to establish the Hoskinson Center for Formal Mathematics. The center will be part of Dietrich College and will “advance mathematical research by improving global access to knowledge and resources for mathematics researchers, educators and learners”. For more information read the press release here. (via @KevinZollman on Twitter).

Events

This coming Ada Lovelace Day, Tuesday 12 October, the organisers of Ada Lovelace Day live are putting on a series of online webinars on topics including engineering, tech and games, and the science of hypersleep. Tickets are free, and the events will be streamed live on YouTube and Facebook.

School student stage show outfit Maths Inspiration are putting on a special online show during COP26, themed around the mathematics of climate. Schools can pay a flat fee of £75+VAT to have as many students as they want join and watch live, and speakers include Matt Parker, Sammie Buzzard and Hugh Hunt. (via @MathsInspiratn on Twitter).

Screenshot from the MathsCity website, with text: 'EXPLORE - DISCOVER - SOLVE; MathsCity is the home of hands-on maths, located in the heart of Leeds. Coming soon to Trinity Leeds, the UK's first Mathematics Discovery Centre.'

It’s finally happening! The UK’s first hands-on maths discovery centre, MathsCity, will be opening in Leeds on 5th October. Open from 10am-5pm Tuesday-Sunday, in Leeds Trinity Shopping Centre, the mathematical wonderland will include giant bubbles, a laser ‘ring of fire’ and puzzles to solve. Go go go! (via @MathsCityLeeds on Twitter).

On 15th October, the Royal Irish Academy is hosting the Hamilton Lecture 2021, featuring Professor Caroline Series, who’ll be talking about Glimpses in Hyperbolic Geometry. The lecture will take place online, followed by a Q&A, and tickets are free but booking is required. And look, they did such a cool poster (above)!

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