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Paper about teaching using ‘unplanned impact’

I have a paper published online-first by BSHM Bulletin: Journal of the British Society for the History of Mathematics. This means it is online and will be in an upcoming issue.

My title is: ‘The unplanned impact of mathematics’ and its implications for research funding: a discussion-led educational activity.


‘George Green’s Mathematical Influences’ — audio now available

I recently gave a public talk about George Green’s mathematical education and influences, the audio for which is now available online.

Beautiful Science at the British Library


The British Library has an exhibition on at the moment that you might like to see.

Beautiful Science: Picturing Data, Inspiring Insight is all about data visualisation. Here’s the blurb:

Turning numbers into pictures that tell important stories and reveal the meaning held within is an essential part of what it means to be a scientist. This is as true in today’s era of genome sequencing and climate models as it was in the 19th century.

Beautiful Science explores how our understanding of ourselves and our planet has evolved alongside our ability to represent, graph and map the mass data of the time.

From John Snow’s plotting of the 1854 London cholera infections on a map to colourful depictions of the tree of life, discover how picturing scientific data provides new insight into our lives.

Beautiful Science is in the British Library’s Folio Society Gallery until the 26th of May and admission is free.

More information

Beautiful Science at the British Library.

Why maths isn’t like science (and may be evil)

Yesterday I gave a talk to the Nottingham Trent University Maths Society, ‘A brief history of mathematics: 5,000 years from Egypt to Nottingham Trent’. I had a slide in this where I said something about what the Greek style of proof means for mathematics. It has helped me put my finger on something of why mathematics isn’t like science, and I thought I would share it here so I can look it up when I’ve forgotten again.

Recent history

I am preparing a talk for our undergraduate Maths Society (perhaps ill-advisedly) with the title ‘A brief history of mathematics: 5,000 years from Egypt to Nottingham Trent’. This will be a stampede through some very selected hightlights, starting with some arm waving about pyramids and ending with something modern. In fact, as well as some recent results that have been reported on this site this year, I intend to end with a recent piece of research published in the department (and a colleague has promised a nice picture of a brain for this1).

Relatedly, a colleague who teaches on our Financial Mathematics degree suggested I include Black–Scholes in my talk, as one of the most recent results included in an undergraduate degree. It’s from 1973. Can we do better? I asked Twitter.

  1. Something to do with complexity and computational graph theory. []

Éditions Hermann donates its Bourbaki archives to the Bibliothèque nationale de France

A collection of material pertaining to Nicolas Bourbaki, author of the famous Elements of Mathematics, has been donated to the French national library by his publisher, éditions Hermann. Bourbaki set out to reframe modern maths in terms of set theory, to give the subject a coherence that would lead to more rigour and cross-application of results.

The donated material consists of “original texts, corrected proofs of the Elements of Mathematics, as well as various items related to the publication of the books including catalogues, press releases, contemporary journal articles on Bourbaki, and letters.”

More information (all in French)

Les éditions Hermann font don d’archives Nicolas Bourbaki à la Bibliothèque nationale de France – (PDF) press release from the BNF and Hermann.

Les Archives Bourbaki à la BNF – potted history of Bourbaki in Libération.

Nicolas Bourbaki fait son entrée à la BNF! – hour-long radio programme on France Culture, including contributions from Pierre Cartier, former avatar of Bourbaki, and Guillaume Fau, curator of manuscripts at the BNF.

Nicolas Bourbaki entry on MacTutor (in English)