You're reading: News

Message sent using beam of neutrinos

Fermilab aerial view

Fermilab aerial view

Researchers have, apparently for the first time, sent a message using a beam of neutrinos. The message was sent through 240 meters of stone and said simply, “Neutrino.”

Dispute over mathematical music dismissed

New Scientist reports on a lawsuit that was dismissed by a US district court this week, a decision apparently “intentionally released” on pi day. The case, “a claim of copyright infringement brought by one mathematical musician against another”, centred around a piece of music and YouTube video which went viral last pi day. Michael Blake, this says, created an “original musical composition, “What pi sounds like”, translating the constant’s first few dozen digits into musical notes”. The article explains:

That afternoon, jazz musician Lars Erickson from Omaha, Nebraska, cried foul. Erickson thought Blake’s work sounded suspiciously similar to his own 1992 piece “Pi Symphony,” also based on the digits of pi, which is registered with the US copyright office. He contacted YouTube, and Blake’s video vanished.

They had “both assigned each of the digits 0 to 9 to a musical note and then treated the digits of pi as a musical score”. Erickson calls the two melodies “identical”, but the court disagreed. The article reports the ruling:

the two pieces differed enough in areas like tempo, musical phrasing, and harmonies to be considered distinct. Plus, US law doesn’t protect every aspect of the piece, like underlying facts and ideas.

What’s more, Simon, who intentionally released his decision on Pi Day, noted that Erickson’s copyright registration only protects musical flourishes – and his are markedly different from Blake’s.

The legal opinion reads:

Pi is a non-copyrightable fact, and the transcription of pi to music is a non-copyrightable idea. The resulting pattern of notes is an expression that merges with the non-copyrightable idea of putting pi to music.

Read the full story at New Scientist: US judge rules that you can’t copyright pi.

Mathematics Matters – a Parliamentary view of the importance of mathematics

A new post on the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications (IMA) blog by Noel-Ann Bradshaw outlines a seminar “Mathematics Matters” on 15th March 2012, hosted by the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee in collaboration with the Council for Mathematical Sciences with the aim “to promote the role played by mathematics and mathematicians in society”.

Noel-Ann notes that Prof. Sir Adrian Smith said the government is “well aware of the importance of mathematics and the part it plays in key national and strategic priorities” and says that “it was pointed out that whilst maths is becoming a more popular subject to study at university we are still not producing enough graduates to satisfy demand”.

The blog posts gives a description of talks and discussion points from the day, which included talks on media use of statistics, cryptography, epidemiology, imaging and a discussion of the issues affecting mathematics.

Read the full details over on the IMA blog “IMAMATHSBLOGGER”: Mathematics Matters – a crucial contribution to the country’s economy.

Survey finds pupils rate STEM jobs but find STEM subjects too difficult or boring

The Telegraph reports that a survey of career aspirations of 1,000 pupils aged six to 16 by the Royal Institution’s L’Oreal Young Scientist Centre has been published to coincide with the Big Bang Fair in Birmingham this week.

Findings reported  include:

49.4 per cent of children thought STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and maths) were too difficult or boring while 15 per cent thought they were only relevant to jobs in medicine.

The Telegraph gives the “top ten dream careers” given by pupils in the survey (remember the age range is six to 16!):

1. Professional Athlete
2. Performer
3. Secret Agent
4. Firefighter
5. Astronaut
6. Veterinarian
7. Doctor
8. Teacher
9. Pilot
10. Zoo Keeper

The Mirror, coving the same story, highlights that this list includes “being a vet, an astronaut, a pilot, a doctor or a zoo keeper”, and points out that all of these need STEM qualifications.

The focus of both articles is on cuts to careers advice since the election. David Porter, Manager of the Royal Institution’s L’Oréal Young Scientist Centre, is quoted saying: “Face to face careers guidance is extremely important, but this survey shows that students are not all receiving the right guidance to lead them in the right direction.”


Telegraph: Half of children find science and maths too difficult or too boring.
Mirror: Careers advice cuts could be putting kids off science.

Maths Careers photo competition

The Maths Careers website has launched its Maths Photo Competition 2012. The competition is open to four categories: 11-13, 14-16, 17-19 and Undergraduate (one entry per person per category). This asks entrants to take a photo (with no people in the photo) and add “an exciting, maths related caption”. The prize is a £100 Amazon voucher.

A full set of rules and a submission form is available via the Maths Careers website.

Mockus, mathematician-king

Charlotte Bouckaert shared this story on Google+. It’s about Antanas Mockus, a mathematician and philosopher who was elected mayor of Bogotá twice. It’s a fascinating read.

People were desperate for a change, for a moral leader of some sort. The eccentric Mockus, who communicates through symbols, humor, and metaphors, filled the role. When many hated the disordered and disorderly city of Bogotá, he wore a Superman costume and acted as a superhero called “Supercitizen.” People laughed at Mockus’ antics, but the laughter began to break the ice of their extreme skepticism.

I think I’d heard about Mockus before on an episode of From Our Own Correspondent, but it’s good to read more about his exploits, and that he seems to be genuinely popular with the citizens of Bogotá even after his term has ended.

via Charlotte Bouckaert.