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Podcasting update

I have a job. This is not the podcasting update, but it does affect it! If you have listened to the latest Math/Maths Podcast you will know that I will be lecturing mathematics from January while trying to finish my PhD thesis, and that we will be putting that podcast on hiatus while I do so. This means no more talking to Samuel Hansen for at least six months.

There is something you can do to fill this mathematical podcasting gap, however. Samuel is trying to raise money through a Kickstarter to allow him upgrade his equipment and improve the quality, to pay for the travel to conduct face-to-face interviews and to make this his full-time job so he can concentrate on a regular release schedule, for his work in maths (math) and science communication over at

At Kickstarter, Samuel says: has spent the last four years trying to do something that very few others have ever attempted, create entertaining, insightful, and interesting content about mathematics and science. Started by Samuel Hansen in the beginning of 2009, ACMEScience has produced a pop-culture joke filled mathematical panel show, Combinations and Permutations, a show that interviews everyone from the CEO of a stats driven dating site to a stand up mathematician to Neil deGrasse Tyson, Strongly Connected Components, a show that tells the stories of the fights that behind DNA, dinosaurs, and the shape of the universe, Science Sparring Society, a video interview show that has featured predatory bacteria and crowdsourced questions, ACMEScience News Now, and a series of hour long journeys into the world of competitive AI checkers computers and stories of the most interesting 20th C mathematician and much more, Relatively Prime.

You may remember that Samuel raised money through a Kickstarter before, for the extremely well-received documentary series Relatively Prime. So you might judge this as evidence that he is capable of delivering this project. However, you may also remember that if he doesn’t raise the whole amount he needs then he gets nothing.

There are various pledge levels, with various rewards. Some of these are aimed at the individual who wants to own a piece of the project. Others are aimed at people who want to sponsor/advertise via the shows and get their message out there. Looking at the level of pledges so far, Samuel could really do with a few companies or individuals who want to get a message out to a mathematics or science audience coming forward and pledging some money. Relatively Prime was very well listened to, and you could get your message to a large, focused, engaged set of listeners.

There is not long to go (only four days at time of writing) and it doesn’t look good. So please pitch in and also tell everyone you know via your own blog/podcast/social networks/etc. so that others will support his effort.

Here is the video in which Samuel makes his case. It’s six minutes so at least watch that! The Kickstarter page is by Samuel Hansen. Donating is easy through Amazon payments.

Relatively Prime, All in a Name

“Prime. Prime? Prime! Prime factors, twin primes, pseudo-primes? No, no no. Relatively Prime? Yes, Relatively Prime.”

I have a problem, no matter how good an idea I have I can not start to work on it until I have a name. Some names are easy, Combination and Permutations was a name well before I ever had a show to use it, Science Sparring Society followed directly from the concept, and ACMEScience NEWS NOW actually told me what type of show I would be making. Other names are hard.

I had the underlying idea for Relatively Prime (get the first episode here) in an extreme bout of egotism and delusion of grandeur where I spent too long listening to Radio Lab, This American Life, and Snap Judgment and began to think, “Hey, I could do that, but for math.”

Neil deGrasse Tyson: Culturally an academic

I listened to Samuel Hansen’s interview with local-boy-made-good Neil deGrasse Tyson (that’s an in joke for those who have listened, so you’d better go and listen, right?).

They speak about mathematics in astrophysics (“math in astrophysic”?), space exploration & research, outreach and more.

In talking mathematics, Dr Tyson covers an unplanned impact of mathematics and also offers this gem:

You visit China you want to speak Chinese so you can communicate with the culture. If you want to talk to the Universe you have to know mathematics.

Perhaps the most interesting part of their conversation, to me, is the discussion of outreach and helping children develop and grow their natural enthusiasm and curiosity into a career in science. Dr Tyson also engagingly makes the case for fundamental research and investment in science research in economic terms, including the role of scientists in communicating their work to the public.

The interview was a really interesting and engaging eighteen minutes of audio. I am grateful that Dr Tyson and others are willing to give a little time to this sort of activity, and once again grateful that Samuel somehow manages to eke out a living, for the moment, while producing this sort of content. If you have it in your power to somehow help him to keep doing this, please do so (possibilities range from offering him somewhere to sleep in LA later this month to offering Samuel a job which makes the most of his talents).

One part of the interview that really resonated with me was when Samuel asked about Dr Tyson moving away from more traditional academic work towards what I would call outreach – writing books and broadcasting – and administration – directing the Hayden Planetarium – while still calling himself an academic. In his answer Dr Tyson describes himself as “culturally an academic”.

People often ask what I do and its quite hard for some people to understand because I’m not easily pigeonholed. This was brought home this week when I gave my history of cryptography lecture at Salford and my host presented the awkward question, “how should I introduce you?”

Technically I have an administrator employment contract and part of my job is administering funding and collecting and collating reports, yet I see my primary interest as teaching mathematics at university and my work as doing or developing research into improving that teaching. Although I am not an academic in the sense of doing mathematical research and being employed on an academic contract, my research is into teaching and I engage in academic-like activities like teaching, outreach, attending conferences and active membership of professional bodies and learned societies. I see my future as being a mathematics lecturer whose research is into improving his teaching. I like the notation of seeing myself as “culturally an academic”.