Tuesday, 18 November 2008

9th IMA Younger Mathematicians Conference

What a truly inspirational day.......

So many eye-opening talks including, the importance of eigenvalues and eigenvectors within Google's framework for ranking the search results, the future plans for preserving the Cutty Sark as a national treasure and the use of the Monte Carlo Simulation methods for calculating the most likely ruin event within the financial industry.
Noel-Ann Bradshaw (University of Greenwich) gave a brilliant talk on how multi-objective evolutionary algorithms can be used within portfolio optimisation in the financial markets.
Gareth Howell (Cardiff University) gave us a sneak preview into the life of a PhD student and talked about research he's conducting on Theoretical Statistics, including the Farey Series for finding all rational fractions between 0 and 1.

David Youdan also told us about the possible merge between the IMA and LMS into a more unified mathematical society.
All in all, it was a stimulating day and one I certainly will never forget.

My favourite Quote of the day:
"The openness to keep learning is as important as the subject itself" - Andrew Smith (Deloitte)

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Maths Inspiration

Lovely to see Rob Eastaway's Maths Inspiration going so well, as shown on the BBC morning news yesterday. When Rob set this up a couple of years ago, one of the first venues was the Greenwich Theatre and we organised an outing for students - we even cancelled a Discrete Maths lecture for the day! And I suspect Rob's event, which featured Claire Ellis, Hugh Hunt and Colin Wright as well as Rob himself, was almost as entertaining as my class would have been.

Mark Haddon - Proof-reading at the Royal Society

A fascinating discussion at the Royal Society this week between the novelist Mark Haddon, author of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, and the mathematician Marcus du Sautoy. It was full of fascinating insights into the nature of creativity, artistic and mathematical: it was a remarkably stimulating evening (and there is a webcast available (click on "Physics and Mathematics" and look for "Proof-reading: Telling stories with numbers, telling stories with words"). I was left excited by illuminating ideas which emerged in the interview. It also inspired me to investigate Haddon's website.

Saturday, 1 November 2008

Blanc Mange, bags and stick goblins – Math Lecture with John Mason

It’s 1 o’clock on a windy Wednesday. We wait for the lecture, enjoying a free lunch, socializing and solving problems for each other, or just causing more. Then the time comes, we enter the room, crowding in the middle, waiting again for a speech to start.

We are asked to fill the front rows so we move. We are asked to participate in conversation so we try. Short introduction: Who? Why? What? (John Mason to educate us holds a lecture on thinking mathematically.) Then he walks to the middle fires up his Mac and soon we stare at the blue screen filled with circles, numbers and colour. The lecture is called Thinking Mathematically. So the circles – at least for me – bring up memories of Maths and stick figures (And stick figures make me - like a dog of Pavlov - to associate with a giant in the playground. Hence the goblins in the header.) Of course they should mean numbers and addition and powers and laws but that’s why we have this lecture. Not to train our strictly meant mathematical knowledge but to make us better understand what we already should now.

We are sorting colourful objects, putting them in bags and then generating functions like wings of angels

All this to learn something most people would think impossible to learn. But we do, and we like it.

After all this is what maths about. Understanding what you already know to make something entirely new and astonishing. Or help someone else make it.