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Review: Maths on the Back of an Envelope, by Rob Eastaway

Maths on the Back of an Envelope

A book about mental arithmetic? By Rob Eastaway? Count me in! In my fuzzy mental Euler diagram of topics and authors, Maths On The Back Of An Envelope lies in the intersection of several ‘favourite’ circles.

Perhaps paradoxically, this meant I was expecting to be a little disappointed: how can a book, by an author I admire, on a topic I both love and have Strong Opinions about, live up to what I’d like it to be? Luckily, Eastaway’s writing is excellent, even taking into account that you expect it to be excellent.

Not Mentioned on the Aperiodical, 10th November 2016

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)

Mathematical myths, legends and inaccuracies: some examples

I’m teaching a first-year module on the history of mathematics for undergraduate mathematicians this term. In this, I’m less concerned about students learning historical facts and more that they gain a general awareness of history of maths while learning about the methods used to study history.

Last week, I decided I would discuss myths and inaccuracies. Though I am aware of a few well-known examples, I was struggling to find a nice, concise debunking of one. I asked on Twitter for examples, and here are the suggestions I received, followed by what I did.

Maths and Magic on BBC Radio 4

BBC Radio 4 put out a rather nice 30-minute documentary on the links between maths and magic recently. In Maths and Magic, Jolyon Jenkins explains a couple of simple algebraic ‘mind-reading’ tricks, before talking to various magicians and mathematicians in search of a mathematical trick that doesn’t ‘look’ mathematical. Regular readers of this site will recognise a few of the mathematicians featured in the programme.

I’m now a bit miffed that I managed to miss Jolyon at the big MathsJam in November, because the trick he ends with is the easy version of the de Bruijn trick that David and I made better last year.

Listen: Maths and Magic on BBC Radio 4.

We’ll be back after these messages

Some news from the world of capitalism: various maths people have things you can spend money on. Our roving reporters investigate.

Maths on Screen DVDsmaths on screen


Maths Inspiration, a maths theatre show which has been touring the country for a few years providing large-scale theatre shows for GCSE and A-Level students, has now released a set of DVDs of a special series of talks, which were filmed earlier this year.