I was interviewed by Nira Chamberlain, President of the Mathematical Association. I am the twelfth person to whom he has asked his question “what is the point of mathematics?” Hoping to offer something a little different, I spoke about teaching students the role mathematical modelling can play in sustainability.

## You're reading: Posts Tagged: Peter Rowlett

### Podcasting about: Mathematical Objects

*In this series of posts, we’ll be featuring mathematical podcasts from all over the internet, by speaking to the creators of the podcast and asking them about what they do.*

We spoke to… ourselves, since we run a podcast here and realised we haven’t done one of these posts about it! Katie and Peter are currently in their third season of fortnightly episodes, with plenty more to come.

### Wikiquote edit-a-thon – Saturday, May 12th, 2018

**TL;DR:** We’re holding a distributed Wikipedia edit-a-thon on Saturday, May 12th, 2018 from 10am to improve the visibility of women mathematicians on the Wikiquotes Mathematics page. Join in from wherever you are! Details below, and in this Google Doc.

Extension and abstraction without apparent direction or purpose is fundamental to the discipline. Applicability is not the reason we work, and plenty that is not applicable contributes to the beauty and magnificence of our subject.

– Peter Rowlett, “The unplanned impact of mathematics”, Nature 475, 2011, pp. 166-169.Trying to solve real-world problems, researchers often discover that the tools they need were developed years, decades or even centuries earlier by mathematicians with no prospect of, or care for, applicability.

– Peter Rowlett, “The unplanned impact of mathematics”, Nature 475, 2011, pp. 166-169.There is no way to guarantee in advance what pure mathematics will later find application. We can only let the process of curiosity and abstraction take place, let mathematicians obsessively take results to their logical extremes, leaving relevance far behind, and wait to see which topics turn out to be extremely useful. If not, when the challenges of the future arrive, we won’t have the right piece of seemingly pointless mathematics to hand.

Peter Rowlett, “The unplanned impact of mathematics”, Nature 475, 2011, pp. 166-169.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I have every admiration for Peter and his work; his is a thoughtful voice of reason, and it’s not at all unreasonable for the Wikiquote page on mathematics to cite his writing.

### Ten years and eight days

On 31st January 2008, I gave my first lecture. I was passing my PhD supervisor in the corridor and he said “there might be some teaching going if you fancy it, go and talk to Mike”. And that, as innocuous as it sounds, was the spark that lit the flame. I strongly disliked public speaking, having hardly done it (not having had much chance to practice in my education to date – I may have only given one talk in front of people to that point, as part of the assessment of my MSc dissertation), but I recognised that this was something I needed to get over. I had just started working for the IMA, where my job was to travel the country giving talks to undergraduate audiences, and I realised that signing up to a regular lecture slot would get me some much-needed experience. I enjoyed teaching so much that I have pursued it since.

I just noticed that last Wednesday was ten years since that lecture. It was basic maths for forensic science students. I was given a booklet of notes and told to either use it or write my own (I used it), had a short chat about how the module might work with another lecturer, and there I was in front of the students. That was spring in the academic year 2007/8 and this is the 21st teaching semester since then. This one is the 15th semester during which I have taught — the last 12 in a row, during which I got a full-time contract and ended ten years of part-time working.

I have this awful feeling this might lead people to imagine I’m one of the people who knows what they are doing.

P.S. The other thing that I started when I started working for the IMA was blogging – yesterday marks ten years since my first post. So this post represents the start of my second ten years of blogging.

### George Green: Nottingham’s Magnificent Mathematician

We don’t regard him as a miller, I’m afraid, we regard him as a very eminent mathematician whose work today is still being used in major industries and concerns.

– George Saunders, descendant of George Green, on being asked a question about bags of flour on the Alan Clifford show on BBC Radio Nottingham of 11th September 2014 (starts approx. 1:16).

The above quote is from a short interview with George Saunders and Kathryn Summerwill on BBC local radio about George Green. Green, of whom you may have heard, was a mill-owner in Nottingham and a genius mathematical physicist. The interview marks the opening of an exhibition, curated by Kathryn, ‘George Green: Nottingham’s Magnificent Mathematician‘ in the Weston Gallery at the Lakeside Arts Centre, University of Nottingham.

### Maths at the British Science Festival 2014

Since the British Science Festival’s programme of events for the 2014 festival is now online, you can search through it to find all the mathematical/maths-related events which will be taking place this September in Birmingham. But this is a full-service maths blog, and so you don’t have to because **we’ve done it for you**. (If you’d rather take a look yourself, the full listing is on the BSA website).

### Taking Maths Further podcast launch

The Further Maths Support Programme (FMSP), which provides support for students and teachers in the UK doing Maths and Further Maths at A-level, has commissioned a series of podcasts, called Taking Maths Further, showcasing different people who work using maths as part of their job, and the mathematical tools they use.