Here’s a round-up of some mathematical events and competitions that might be of interest, happening from October.
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The London Mathematical Society Popular Lectures present exciting topics in mathematics and its applications to a wide audience. The 2017 Popular Lectures were Adventures in the 7th Dimension (Dr Jason Lotay, University College London) and The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Physics in Maths (Professor David Tong, University of Cambridge).
The Lectures are now available on the LMS’s YouTube channel, along with many of the previous years’ videos.
Here’s a round-up of some of the news from this month.
Never-ending Turing centenary, part XLVI
The Alan Turing centenary shows no signs of abating.
First of all, there’s a marvellous new art installation under Paddington Bridge in London, in memory of Turing. There’s also a theatre piece called Breaking the Code, showing at Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre until 19th November.
Secondly, work continues to introduce legislation in the UK pardoning all gay men who were convicted of crimes related to homosexuality, in the same way Alan was a few years ago. Ministers said they were ‘committed’ to getting the law passed, but in an emotional session the bill was “talked out” by minister Sam Gyimah, meaning it wasn’t voted on.
LMS wins the first Royal Society Athena prize
The London Mathematical Society (LMS) has been honoured this autumn by receiving the first Royal Society Athena Prize to recognise its advancement of diversity in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) within the mathematical community. The prize was awarded in a ceremony at the Royal Society’s annual diversity conference on 31 October.
Royal Society press release
Fourth Christopher Zeeman medal goes to Rob Eastaway
Mathematician, author and friend of the site Rob Eastaway has received the 2016 Christopher Zeeman medal, awarded to recognise and acknowledge the contributions of mathematicians involved in promoting mathematics to the public and engaging with the public in mathematics in the UK.
There will be an award lecture taking place on 22 March 2017, and details will be announced in Mathematics Today and the LMS Newsletter.
IMA website article on the award
Rob Eastaway’s citation (PDF)
Here’s a round up of some other recent (and now less so) news stories we didn’t cover in full.
13 New 3-body orbits discovered
Physicists from the University of Belgrade have discovered numerically 13 new solutions to the 3-body problem, in 2 dimensions. Described as “quite a feat in mathematical physics”, the discovery makes progress towards the long-standing problem of determining how three particles, when left to move under the action of their gravity on each other, will behave. The solutions they’ve found are all for particles moving in a 2-dimensional plane, and are represented using points on the surface of a sphere to describe the position of the three particles.
Article from Science
Claimed disproof of the Triangulation Conjecture
The Triangulation Conjecture, a result in topology, may turn out to be false as UCLA’s Ciprian Manolescu claims to have disproved it. The conjecture claims that every compact topological manifold can be triangulated by a locally finite simplicial complex, which means that, roughly, any surface (well, n-dimensional surface) can be divided into triangles in a specific way that topologists find exciting. The conjecture has already been disproved in dimension 4, although hope was held it might be true in higher dimensions. We’re still waiting for confirmation the disproof is correct, but if it is it wipes out many topologists’ hopes of being able to divide certain types of surfaces into triangles in a specific way.
Blog post on the topic, with an interesting comments discussion
(via Dave Richeson on Twitter)
Math Cannot be Patented
A patent suit filed in the Eastern District of Texas has been dismissed on the grounds that mathematics cannot be patented. Uniloc, described in an article on news blog Rackspace as ‘a notorious patent troll’, alleged that a floating point numerical calculation by the Linux operating system violated U.S. Patent 5,892,697. You can’t patent maths!
Mathematics Cannot Be Patented – Case Dismissed at Rackspace
Transactions of the LMS: an open access journal
Fans of Open Access journals will be pleased to hear that the London Mathematical Society is launching one, titled Transactions of the London Mathematical Society. The LMS would like to emphasise that:
By launching this journal, the LMS is not promoting any particular cause and we do not advocate one publishing payment model over another.
Details can be found on pages 8-11 of their most recent newsletter.
LMS Newsletter #424
The London Mathematical Society has announced that this year’s Women In Mathematics Day will take place on April the 18th and 19th at the Isaac Newton Institute in Cambridge. It’s free for students and £5 on the door for everyone else.
The event provides an opportunity to meet and talk with women who are active and successful in mathematics. While this is an occasion particularly for women active in mathematics to get together, men are certainly not excluded from this event.
The deadline for poster and talk submissions is March 15th 2013 (contact Beatrice Pelloni); if you’d like to register as a delegate, get in touch with Katy Henderson by April 1st 2013.
Women in Mathematics Day event page at the LMS
Having visited the British Library on stop 1, I bought a sandwich for lunch and walked down to Russell Square.
The clue I tweeted to my location (below) was nicely ambiguous, looking like a fairly standard London scene. David Ault, winner of the photo clue competition at stop 1, attempted a “CSI ‘Zoom… Enhance…’” on the phone boxes but failed.
A page on the Camden Council website gives a timeline of history of the Russell Square. The origins are in 1545 when the first Earl of Southampton purchased the manor of Bloomsbury from the Crown, and particularly in 1669 when the Russell family acquired the Estate. A period of building in the late 18th and early 19th centuries led to the laying out of a garden in Russell Square in 1806.
Russell square is described in ‘Russell Square and Bedford Square‘ (Old and New London: Volume 4 by Edward Walford) in 1878:
A writer in the St. James’s Magazine thus speaks of this locality: “Russell Square is, under ordinary circumstances, a very nice place to walk in. If those troublesome railway vans and goods wagons would not come lumbering and clattering, by way of Southampton Row, through the square, and up Guilford Street, on their way to King’s Cross, ‘La Place Roussell’ would be as cosy and tranquil as ‘La Place Royale’ in Paris. It has the vastness of Lincoln’s Inn Fields without its dinginess.”
It was in these gardens that I sat for my lunch, by a fountain that was added in a re-landscaping in 2000-1, “loosely based” on the original layout. I visit Russell Square often, though not often the gardens, as it is the location of De Morgan House, headquarters of the London Mathematical Society (LMS). The photo below shows a view from the fountain towards De Morgan House.
According to a brief history given on the LMS website, the formation of the society took place in a fashion of founding new “specialised scientific outlets” in the 19th century, including societies for geology (1807), astronomy (1820), statistics (1834) and chemistry (1841). Originally associated with University College London (incidentally, on the other side of Russell Square), the LMS held its first meeting at University College on Monday January 16th 1865 with Augustus De Morgan, the founding professor of mathematics at University College, as its first President giving the opening address. The idea for the society came from De Morgan’s son, George Campbell De Morgan, and Arthur Cowper Ranyard, both former students at University College, who felt “it would be very nice to have a Society to which all discoveries in Mathematics could be brought, and where things could be discussed, like the Astronomical [Society]”.
Having operated from offices in various locations, the Society located in (and renamed) De Morgan House in 1998. The building now holds a conference venue and a room used by the IMA for meetings, one or other of which is where I tend to be going when I visit Russell Square on ordinary days.
The square is also the home of the Russell Hotel. This is a significant location because the hotel gives its name to the Russell Group of 20 universities which, according to its website, are “committed to maintaining the very best research, an outstanding teaching and learning experience and unrivalled links with business and the public sector”. The Russell Group was founded and originally met in the hotel.
Having finished my lunch, I moved on. I will save my next stop for another post.
The right lever to move the world
The new academic year has brought a mass of activity and potential opportunities. I am keen to spread the IMA message as widely as possible so thoughts turn to how my activities can be distributed to as many students as possible. So it is that I have begun several new initiatives.
Starting with the October issue, selected articles from Mathematics Today are distributed electronically to student groups with whom I have a contact or other student reps where no such group exists. These contacts will then redistribute the electronic Mathematics Today to students within their universities. This means that, perhaps as you read this, I will be reading through and picking a selection of articles from this copy of Mathematics Today that I think are of interest to students. Students will receive links to PDFs that are active for a limited period. I am also sending each student group a print copy of Mathematics Today for them to display at their events. The intention is that by receiving some of the content from Mathematics Today, students might begin to gain awareness of the IMA and the role it can play in their lives post-graduation. Certainly, we can hope that more students will be exposed to the IMA through this method than could be by my actions in person. And with the quality content in Mathematics Today we can be assured that the exposure will be meaningful as well as wide-reaching. If you would like students at your university to receive Mathematics Today please contact me at email@example.com.
A second activity I have begun is a podcast, Travels in a Mathematical World, which features mathematicians talking about their work and careers, as well as Maths History features from Noel-Ann Bradshaw of the University of Greenwich and Maths News roundups with Sarah Shepherd of iSquared Magazine. This has been running for a few weeks now and the response I have had so far has been positive with students I have spoken to keen to hear from ‘real life mathematicians’. At a Mathsoc event at the University of Greenwich I was approached by a student who said “I was listening to you this morning.” It took me a moment to realise what she meant! You can listen to episodes and download the podcast at http://www.travelsinamathematicalworld.co.uk/. Any promotion you can provide for this is most welcome.
Thirdly (and I won’t say “finally”!), my relationships with university mathematical societies continue to increase in number. Through a group I am calling Representatives of University Mathematical Societies (RUMS), I am able to keep in touch with students at a wide range of universities through a single contact at each. Universities that do not have such student groups often have a student representative on some staff-student liaison group and sometimes it is possible for this student to act as my point of contact, or simply another keen student. So RUMS membership now includes students from universities without mathematical societies. This group is a huge advantage to my interactions as the task of maintaining a current list of students would be impractical. And there is, I think, a clear advantage to the students themselves in already participating in the mathematical community. If you are in touch with a student group, or know your university doesn’t have one but can think of another student who may be able to help, please get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org.
I have set up a new blog for the members of the RUMS group to post news from their activities and share ideas. As I travel I am made aware of the different groups who all have similar goals and are all running into the same issues and this blog is designed for groups to share this experience. Particularly, I meet new student groups and it is good to be able to point them to the blog for inspiration. In the Student Section this time I have collected a few snippets of news from the blog. The blog is available at imarums.blogspot.com.
Activities Sept-Oct 2008
Last time I mentioned a questionnaire that I have distributed to universities through our network of IMA University Representatives and I am glad to say that responses have been coming in through this period. I have a 37% response rate with questionnaires returned from 27 universities.
During September I made several trips to Birmingham. First, I met with the IMA’s new liaison with the Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services (AGCAS), Julie Hepburn from the Cardiff University Careers Service. We had a chat about what AGCAS and the IMA can do together. I’ve also visited the more maths grads project, who do some great work in mathematics enrichment at school level. We are exploring ways we can work together in areas we overlap, particularly on careers advice. Lastly, I attended the LMS Popular Lectures 2008 and grabbed 5 minutes with the Co-Chair of the Mathsoc at Birmingham and I am happy to report they are now successful University Liaison Grant applicants.
In October, I visited the University of Leicester and met with the enthusiastic bunch who are the committee for the student group there. Those who enjoy a bit of wordplay will enjoy the name: Student Union Maths Society (SUMS).
Next came my small part in following the New Unified Mathematics Society tour. I visited Newcastle, York, Leeds, Warwick and my home city of Nottingham with the Presidents of the IMA and LMS, David Abrahams and Brian Davies, respectively. It was really useful to go to universities I have not yet had the chance to visit and I have made some useful contacts there. I took the opportunity to catch up with the Mathsoc at Newcastle, who have recently made their second successful University Liaison Grant application and the more maths grads regional base in Leeds.
I visited the University of Greenwich for a talk organised by the MathSoc there on “Thinking Mathematically” by John Mason. Noel-Ann Bradshaw of the University of Greenwich is looking to organise a grouping of London Universities who can look to cross-promote events and I stopped on my way across London to meet the President of the Maths Society at Imperial College.
Finally I rounded off the month in Manchester, where I attended a mathematics specific careers event, “Calculating Careers”. I operated a stall at this with a mixture of careers advice, IMA materials and last but certainly not least a set of puzzles. This did lead to an afternoon of me calling out to passing students:”Fancy playing a game?” but it also led to all those students going home with a “Maths Matters” postcard from the Maths Careers website (http://www.mathscareers.org.uk/) and a copy of the Mathematics Today article Careers for Mathematicians1 under their arms, and hopefully some raised awareness of the IMA. I was told afterwards that my stall had seen the most activity at the fair so there is something to be said for baiting mathematicians with intellectual curiosities!
You can find out more about the University Liaison initiative by visiting the IMA Student page or reading my blog, both via: www.ima.org.uk/student.
1. BRIAULT, S., 2008. Careers for Mathematicians. Mathematics Today, 44(3), pp. 117-118.