You're reading: Posts Tagged: Nottingham

National Science & Engineering Competition at your local Big Bang Fair

With the national fair over, the regional Big Bang Fairs are taking place. These aim to “inspire and enthuse the next generation of engineers and scientists”. This year the Nottingham Maths Jam group will be at the East Midlands fair repeating our puzzles stall, previously seen at the East Midlands Big Bang Fair 2011.

The stall, abuzz
Maths Jam stall at the East Midlands Big Bang Fair 2011

The fairs in my part of the world are the East Midlands (East Midlands Conference Centre, University of Nottingham, 28 June 2012) and West Midlands (Thinktank, Birmingham, 26 June 2012), both organised by David Ault and his team at By Design who ran the very successful 2011 East Midlands fair. You can find your nearest via the Big Bang website.

One major reason for attending the fairs is to enter a CREST or STEM project to the National Science & Engineering Competition (East Midlands competition page; West Midlands competition page). According to the website, this

seeks to showcase and reward the best student projects from every area of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM). It is open to all 11-18 year olds living in the UK.
Students entered projects by attending a Big Bang Near Me event. The best entries from these are invited to showcase their project at The Big Bang: UK Young Scientists’ and Engineers’ Fair, held every year.
There is over £50,000 of prizes available including cash awards and trips abroad. Prizes are available for teams and individuals, for different age groups (Junior: 11 to 14 years; Intermediate: 15 to 16; Senior: 17 to 18 years) and across a range of disciplines and themes. The overall individual winners in the senior age category will be crowned the UK Young Scientist of the Year or the UK Young Engineer of the Year.

Find out more at the competition website. So what are you waiting for? Register to attend your local Fair via the website.

George and Julian

Yesterday, the @mathshistory Twitter feed tells me, was the anniversary of the birth of Julian Schwinger (1918-1994), one of the great physicists of the 20th century. (Technically I queued this tweet up but there are a lot of days and a lot of mathematicians to remember…)

Schwinger is known to me particularly through his connection to the story of George Green. Green was a Nottingham mathematician who did work on electricity and magnetism (among other things) that, largely unrecognised in his lifetime, was discovered and brought after his death to further attention by William Thomson (later Lord Kelvin). The application of Green’s work in 19th century science was impressive but it found a new legacy in the 20th century.

At the 1993 celebration in Nottingham of the bicentenary of Green’s birth, Schwinger spoke about his use of Green’s work (a talk written up as The Greening of Quantum Field Theory: George and I).

Schwinger’s account is worth reading. He describes his use of Green’s work first on microwave radar during World War II, then in the development of the microtron and synchrotron particle accelerators, and finally to solve a problem on quantum electrodynamics, work which earned him a share, with Sin-Itiro Tomonaga and Richard Feynman, of the 1965 Nobel Prize for Physics.

In the preface to his most famous work, An Essay on the Application of Mathematical Analysis to the Theories of Electricity and Magnetism (1828), Green had written:

Should the present Essay tend in any way to facilitate the application of analysis to one of the most interesting of the physical sciences, the author will deem himself amply repaid for any labour he may have bestowed upon it.

Schwinger’s account helps us to understand how Green not only impacted the physics of his age, but how it continued to have impact beyond anything Green could have imagined.

Maths at the East Midlands Big Bang Fair

Recently I was invited to take a mathematical puzzles stall to the East Midlands Big Bang science fair. This took place in Nottingham yesterday. I gathered a few friends from the Nottingham MathsJam group, which I run, and we planned what we could do with a stall. We agreed a list of puzzles we could put together and run. We felt it was important to have solid, physical puzzles and games that would attract people to the stall, including making use of the floor area, as well as more advanced and intriguing items and a takeaway sheet. I wanted the takeaway sheet to provide some advice on problem solving techniques as well as some puzzles to try. There were various extra constraints as well as what we could physically make with no budget, including the difficulty of catering to the wide age range of those attending: 9 to 19!

We met a couple of weekends ago and agreed a set of puzzles, tried them on fellow MathsJammers at the monthly meeting last week and have spent the last week or so making bits and pieces ready for the fair yesterday (particular thanks in that regard are due to John Read and Kathryn Taylor). We called the stall “Solving it like a mathematician”. For big, attractive, fun we had Latin squares with giant playing cards, a puzzle involving arranging tokens inside a giant circle (a hula hoop) and matchstick puzzles with giant matchsticks (bamboo canes). For hands on activity we were making Möbius strips. The more in depth tabletop exercises included: Buffon’s needle for estimating pi (we got 3.78 from 141 throws); a ‘wisdom of crowds’ guessing how much rice is in the jar and rice on the chessboard exponential growth combo; and, the fifteen puzzle and how to tell if an arbitrary position can be solved. Each puzzle had an advice sheet and these as well as the handout are available on a page on my website.

I have been unwell recently so I took a lighter load than I might have for the day. I helped set up the stall and stayed for the first hour, in which not much was happening, then left until the afternoon. Here is a picture of the stall, ready to go but sans visitors.

our stall, ready to go
After the first hour, I left the stall in the capable hands of John Read and Ian Peatfield for the morning. We had agreed a kind of shift system – I didn’t want everyone arriving first thing and us all getting tired mid-afternoon. I went and found a cafe for a quiet read. When I returned after lunch Ian had finished his stint, Alex Corner and Noel France had joined John, and the stall was abuzz! Here is a photo.

The stall, abuzz
Apart from the combination of bamboo cane ‘matches’ and plastic plate ‘coins’ for some of the oversized puzzles leading to a plate spinning class, everything was going as planned. Soon we were joined by Kathryn Taylor and the five of us spent the afternoon rushing around after wave-upon-wave of pupils. That every few minutes another pupil was dragged away from the stall, “put that down now, we’ve got to leave”, by their teachers was, I think, a sign of success. Here’s one more picture from the afternoon.

puzzles stall
Overall, I am very pleased with the stall we made and the team who ran it. My first science fair and a very pleasing experience indeed. I hope some of our visitors saw some interest in mathematics and the couple of hundred who took the advice sheet might learn something about approaching problems. Now, to find somewhere to store my new ‘puzzles stall kit’ for next time!

Congratulations should go to David Ault and his team for organising the fair which, as far as I can tell, went very smoothly.

Audio and video content produced during Math/Maths Week 2010

Here is a record of everything with Samuel Hansen and I from the week Samuel came to visit me in the UK in November 2010. Chronological order of recording. Ish.

1. Math/Maths Podcast Episode 22 – LIVE from MathsJam! (13/11/10; Stone, Staffs.; audio, 41:44).

Math/Maths Live recording at MathsJam on Saturday 13th November 2010. A special episode with no news but views from the floor at MathsJam. Special guests this week (who gave their names): Colin Wright, Rob Eastaway, Bubblz the Mathematical Clown, Hugh Hunt, Dan Hagon, Jeff Morley, Timandra Harkness, Alex Bellos, James Grime, Phil Ramsden, Andrew Jeffery, Colin Graham and Sara Santos.

2. Combinations and Permutations Episode 57: LIVE, with audium! (13-14/11/10; Stone, Staffs.; audio, 36:23).

Samuel hosted and Peter appeared as a guest with Matt Parker and James Grime in this episode of Samuel’s (doesn’t mind its language) podcast, Combinations and Permutations.

3. James Grime’s The Mathematics of Bell Ringing (14/11/10; Stone, Staffs.; video, 3:59).

Peter appeared in this video by James Grime recorded in a quiet corner at the end of MathsJam.

4. The Math/Maths Computing History Tour of Nottingham – Burroughs and Ada Lovelace (16/11/10; Nottingham; video, 6:49).

Nottingham is the burial place of the Byron family and particularly Ada Lovelace, regarded as the world’s first computer programmer, who worked with Charles Babbage on his Difference and Analytical Engines. Nottingham was also the overseas manufacturing plant for Burroughs Adding Machine Company, a precursor of modern computers, which became one of the eight major United States computer companies and ultimately joined a merger to form worldwide IT brand Unisys.

When Samuel Hansen visited Peter Rowlett in Nottingham, Peter took Samuel on a mathematics and computing history tour of the city. In this video, Peter shows Samuel some of the sites related to this story in Nottingham, following a clue from David Singmaster’s Mathematical Gazetteer of the British Isles, and Samuel tells Peter some of the relevant history of computing.

5. Math/Maths History Tour of Nottingham – George Green: Miller, Mathematician, and Physicist (16/11/10; Nottingham; video, 12:03).

George Green (1793-1841) was a miller in Sneinton, Nottingham who worked in his spare time to develop mathematics that, although unrecognised in his own lifetime, has been very useful to mathematics since. His work was rediscovered by Lord Kelvin and applied first to electromagnetism, later even to Nobel Prize-winning work in quantum theory, and continues to be useful to physicists and mathematicians today.

When Samuel Hansen visited Peter Rowlett in Nottingham, Peter took Samuel on a mathematics and computing history tour of the city. In this video, Peter takes Samuel to visit some of the sites from Green’s life in Nottingham, including Green’s windmill, Nottingham’s mathematical playground, Nottingham High School and the Bromley House Library.

6. Math/Maths History Tour of Nottingham – When Einstein came to town (16/11/10; Nottingham; video; 4:14).

Albert Einstein visited Nottingham in 1930 to give a lecture on his new theories of relativity at University College, Nottingham. The blackboard he used was varnished over and preserved, and a scrapbook of newspaper clippings is full of stories.

When Samuel Hansen visited Peter Rowlett in Nottingham, Peter took Samuel on a mathematics and computing history tour of the city. In this video, Peter takes Samuel to the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Nottingham to see Einstein’s blackboard and find out what happened when Einstein came to town.

7. Math/Maths History Tour of Nottingham – George Green’s Slide (16/11/10; Nottingham; video; 0:10).

Just a silly video in which Samuel and Peter take a trip down the pi slide in the Mathematical Playground at George Green’s Mill.

8. Math/Maths Podcast Episode 23 – LIVE from Greenwich (17/11/10; Greenwich; audio, 41:28).

This episode recorded live at the University of Greenwich. This week Samuel and Peter spoke about: Android phone solves Rubik’s cube in 12.5 seconds; Edmonton Eulers; Relativistic trading; American math achievement; Russian maths problem teaches students who’s really in power; NASA’s Metric Failure; quantum error threshold; Top Five Utterly Incomprehensible Mathematics Titles; Your own maths theorem for £15; and news & stories (including stories from MathsJam) from the floor at Greenwich. Special guests this week: Mitch Keller, Tony Mann, David Singmaster, Nic Mortimer and Noel-Ann Bradshaw.

9. Math/Maths Live at Greenwich bootleg recording by James Clare (17/11/10; Greenwich; video: 08:21).

Video recording made by audience member James Clare of first 8 minutes of the Math/Maths Podcast recording at Greenwich.

Samuel Hansen’s visit to the UK and associated activities were supported by: University of Nevada, Las Vegas, University of Greenwich, University of Leicester Mathsoc, Nottingham Trent University, MathsJam, Nottingham High School, Bromley House Library and the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications. We are grateful also to the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Nottingham for letting us film there.

(Not that it’s any way to judge anything, but I make that 1:59:58 of audio and 35:36 of video for you to listen to and watch.)

Math/Maths History Tour of Nottingham 2/3 – George Green: Miller, Mathematician, and Physicist

When Samuel Hansen visited me in Nottingham I took him on a maths and computing tour of the city and we filmed content for three videos. Here is the second, on Nottingham’s most famous mathematical story, George Green.

There is a YouTube playlist with all the Math/Maths History videos and a map of the locations used in the videos.

George Green (1793-1841) was a miller in Sneinton, Nottingham who worked in his spare time to develop mathematics that, although unrecognised in his own lifetime, has been very useful to mathematics since. His work was rediscovered by Lord Kelvin and applied first to electromagnetism, later even to Nobel Prize-winning work in quantum theory, and continues to be useful to physicists and mathematicians today.

When Samuel Hansen visited Peter Rowlett in Nottingham, Peter took Samuel on a mathematics and computing history tour of the city. In this video, Peter takes Samuel to visit some of the sites from Green’s life in Nottingham, including Green’s windmill, Nottingham’s mathematical playground, Nottingham High School and the Bromley House Library.

Listen to Samuel and Peter on the Math/Maths Podcast, a weekly maths news roundup from Pulse-Project.org.

Samuel Hansen’s visit to the UK and associated activities were supported by: University of Nevada, Las Vegas, University of Greenwich, University of Leicester Mathsoc, Nottingham Trent University, MathsJam, Nottingham High School, Bromley House Library and the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications.

Math/Maths History Tour of Nottingham 1/3 – Computing: Burroughs Adding Machines & Ada Lovelace

When Samuel Hansen visited me in Nottingham I took him on a maths and computing tour of the city and we filmed content for three videos. Here is the first. (Be sure to watch for the bit after the credits!)

Update (05/03/11): I made a YouTube playlist onto which I will add the new videos as they become available.

The Math/Maths Computing History Tour of Nottingham – Burroughs and Ada Lovelace

Nottingham is the burial place of the Byron family and particularly Ada Lovelace, regarded as the world’s first computer programmer, who worked with Charles Babbage on his Difference and Analytical Engines. Nottingham was also the overseas manufacturing plant for Burroughs Adding Machine Company, a precursor of modern computers, which became one of the eight major United States computer companies and ultimately joined a merger to form worldwide IT brand Unisys.

When Samuel Hansen visited Peter Rowlett in Nottingham, Peter took Samuel on a mathematics and computing history tour of the city. In this video, Peter shows Samuel some of the sites related to this story in Nottingham, following a clue from David Singmaster’s Mathematical Gazetteer of the British Isles, and Samuel tells Peter some of the relevant history of computing.

Listen to Samuel and Peter on the Math/Maths Podcast, a weekly maths news roundup from Pulse-Project.org.

Samuel Hansen’s visit to the UK and associated activities were supported by: University of Nevada, Las Vegas, University of Greenwich, University of Leicester Mathsoc, Nottingham Trent University, MathsJam, Nottingham High School, Bromley House Library and the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications.

Google+