The UK Government have announced the latest list of honours, and we’ve taken a look for the particularly mathematical entries. Here is the selection for this year – if you spot any more, let us know in the comments and we’ll add to the list.

Kenneth Falconer, Regius Professor of Mathematics at the University of St Andrews, appointed CBE for services to mathematics.

Roger Heath-Brown, Emeritus Fellow, University of Oxford, appointed OBE for services to mathematics and mathematical research.

Colva Roney-Dougal, Professor of Mathematics, University of St Andrews, appointed OBE for services to education and mathematics.

Chris Smith, teacher of mathematics at Grange Academy, Kilmarnock, appointed MBE for services to mathematics education and to the community in East Ayrshire.

Steven Underwood, lately mathematics teacher at Ryedale School, Beadlam, North Yorkshire, appointed MBE for services to Education

Laura Dawson (Laura Gilbert), Director of Data Science in the Prime Minister’s Office, appointed CBE for services to technology and analysis.

Thomas Critchley, Data Scientist, Prime Minister’s Office, appointed OBE for services to evidence-based policy.

Tori Olphin, Chief Data Scientist and Head of Research, Thames Valley Police, appointed MBE for services to technology in the public sector.

As well as the New Year Honours, another list has been published – Liz Truss’s Resignation Honours. This list includes a damehood for Shirley Conran for services to mathematics education as founder of the Maths Anxiety Trust.

We had over 30 entries in the competition, of which 20 achieved correct answers, and have picked a random set of winners to pass on to Naylor Games, who should be in touch with them by email in the next few days.

For anyone interested in seeing the answers, here’s what they were. As a reminder, the challenge here is to find a value for \(x\), given that \(n\) represents the number of cards, to get the total of all the card values closest to 21.

According to this recent arXiv paper, data from 350,757 coin flips supports Persi Diaconis’ model of coin tossing, which estimates the probability of a coin landing on the same side it started at a surprising 51%. (via Alex Corner, Sheffield Hallam University)

Statistician C. R. Rao, who pioneered powerful statistical methods that underpin modern scientific data analyses, has died. (via Raul Jimenez)

As we wrote about recently, we (Katie and Peter, along with our friends Sophie Maclean and Matthew Scroggs) are involved in an exciting new initiative – an online maths community that gets together via online chat and monthly video events. The first event happened yesterday evening, and will be available to watch for free on YouTube for the next couple of months.

This is a taster – if you’d like to join the online community and attend next month’s event, you need to join the Finite Group (starting from £4/month).

Our own Katie and Peter have collaborated on a new popular maths book, along with friends of the site Alison Kiddle and Sam Hartburn, which is out today. Short Cuts: Maths is an “expert guide to mastering the numbers behind the mysteries of modern mathematics,” and includes a range of topics from infinity and imaginary numbers to mathematical modelling, logic and abstract structures. We spoke to the four authors to see how they found it writing the book and what readers can expect.

How did this project come to be?

Peter: From my point of view, Katie approached me to ask if I’d like to be involved, which was very exciting! She’d worked on a couple of books with the same publisher and was asked to commission authors for this one.

Katie: The publishers wanted to make this book – one of a ‘Short Cuts’ series which needed a maths title – and asked me to be commissioning editor, which meant I could write some of it and ask others to write the rest. I chose some people I’ve worked with before who I thought would have something interesting to say about some topics in maths (in particular, the topics I know less about, so they could help me with those bits!)

Alison: As I was the last of the four of us to come on board, I think everyone had already expressed a preference for their favourite bits to write about, but luckily that left me with the two best topics, logic and probability.

Do any of you have previous experience of working on a project like this?

Alison: I’ve been involved in writing a book before but that one was about maths education, for an audience of mainly teachers, so this was a different sort of challenge, writing for a general audience with different levels of maths prior knowledge and enthusiasm.

Sam: I’ve worked on many books in the same genre as a copyeditor and proofreader, but this was my first time as an author. I enjoyed seeing how the publishing process works from the author’s point of view – it’s definitely had an impact on my editorial work!

Peter: My first time in popular book form, though I felt it used a bunch of skills I’ve developed in other work. And Katie is so great at organising projects that it went really smoothly.

What’s the book like?

Sam: It’s a book you can dip into – you don’t need to read it from front to back. Each page is self-contained and answers a question, and we tried to make the questions as interesting as possible (two of my particular favourites are ‘Is a mountain the same as a molehill?’ and ‘Do Nicholas Cage films cause drownings?’).

Alison: We had quite a strict word limit to write to, which was a bit hard to get used to at first as I have a tendency to use ten words when two will do – but this turned out to be a blessing because it focussed us all on what the really important concepts were, and we found ways to express those concepts in a concise manner.

Katie: I love how the style of the book builds in these gorgeous illustrations – we worked with the illustrator to make sure they fit with the text, but also bring out fun aspects of the ideas we’re talking about.

Who do you think would enjoy reading this book?

Sam: I’d like to think that anyone who has a vague interest in maths would get something out of it. Even though it delves into some deep mathematical topics, we’ve (hopefully!) written it in such a way that it’s understandable to anybody with school-level maths. But I’d hope that experienced mathematicians would also be able to find something new, or at least fun, in there.

Alison: I’m definitely going to be recommending it to the students I work with. The bite-size dipping in and out model is great for them to skim read so they can find out a little bit about the mathematical ideas that appeal to them. Particularly useful for people preparing for university interviews where they want to show off that they know some maths beyond the usual curriculum!

Katie: My mum’s definitely getting a copy for Christmas – and not just because I was involved in writing it: she’s not from a mathematical background but I think she’d enjoy the straightforward explanations and discovering new ideas.

What’s your favourite bit?

Sam: The publisher did commission some lovely illustrations. The bear in the modelling cycle is a particular delight!

Katie: Yes! We love the modelling bear. I also liked being able to share ideas people might not otherwise encounter if they read about mathematics, like how mathematical modelling works, or what topology is, or some of the nitty-gritty of mathematical logic.

Peter: There are loads of quick summaries of areas of maths I know less about, which is really nice to have. The illustrations are great — the baby failing to manage a crocodile always makes me chuckle, and I can’t wait to show my son the game theory dinosaurs!

Short Cuts: Maths is available to buy today from all good bookshops.