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Mathematician wins ‘Oscar’

This year’s Oscars ceremony, which will take place on 22nd February, will honour those who’ve achieved greatness in film-making, performance, scoring, sound and production. You may not know that in addition to the main ceremony, the Academy also has an untelevised award ceremony taking place two weeks earlier, called the Academy Scientific and Technical Awards (nerd Oscars).

These awards recognise achievement in the field of scientific and technological advancements related to film-making, and have in the past been awarded to a variety of different advancements, including Dolby Surround Sound, the Xenon Arc lamp, IMAX and even Jim Henson’s animatronic muppet technology.

This year though, finally seeing sense, the Academy’s Technical Achievement award goes to a mathematician. Robert Bridson, who’s worked on CGI-heavy films including Gravity, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug and The Adventures of Tin Tin, has been recognised for his work on “early conceptualization of sparse-tiled voxel data structures and their application to modelling and simulation.”

What is a mathematician?

I recently got a new set of business cards printed. I wanted to keep them as simple as possible, and have them communicate only the important information – my name and contact details. But then came the question of what to put underneath my name. I don’t currently have a full time job anywhere, but I do spend pretty much all my time working freelance as a maths communicator, talking to people about maths and popularising the subject. I also do loads of maths related things in my spare time, including running a Maths Jam, and I’m still in the process of writing a paper based on the work I did in my PhD thesis, which I finished last summer. How do you sum that up? I recall recently our own Peter Rowlett struggled similarly when filling in the corresponding field on his census form.