Past Special Lecture

2 July 2018
Lauren Williams

The tree amplituhedron A(n, k, m) is a geometric object generalizing the positive Grassmannian, which was introduced by Arkani-Hamed and Trnka in 2013 in order to give a geometric basis for the computation of scattering amplitudes in N=4 supersymmetric Yang-Mills theory. I will give a gentle introduction to the amplituhedron, and then describe what it looks like in various special cases. For example, one can use the theory of sign variation and matroids to show that the amplituhedron A(n, k, 1) can be identified with the complex of bounded faces of a cyclic hyperplane arrangement. I will also present some conjectures relating the amplituhedron A(n, k, m) to combinatorial objects such as non-intersecting lattice paths and plane partitions. This is joint work with Steven Karp, and part of it is additionally joint work with Yan Zhang.

28 June 2018
Fernando Vega-Redondo

Poor economies not only produce less; they typically produce things that involve fewer inputs and fewer intermediate steps. Yet the supply chains of poor countries face more frequent disruptions - delivery failures, faulty parts, delays, power outages, theft, government failures - that systematically thwart the production process.

To understand how these disruptions affect economic development, we model an evolving input-output network in which disruptions spread contagiously among optimizing agents. The key finding is that a poverty trap can emerge: agents adapt to frequent disruptions by producing simpler, less valuable goods, yet disruptions persist. Growing out of poverty requires that agents invest in buffers to disruptions. These buffers rise and then fall as the economy produces more complex goods, a prediction consistent with global patterns of input inventories. Large jumps in economic complexity can backfire. This result suggests why "big push" policies can fail, and it underscores the importance of reliability and of gradual increases in technological complexity.

8 June 2018
Philip Maini, Edward Morrissey, Heather Harrington

1600-1645 - Philip Maini
1645-1705 - Edward Morrissey
1705-1725 - Heather Harrington
1725-1800 - Drinks and networking

The talks will be followed by a drinks reception.

Tickets can be obtained from
(As ever, tickets are not necessary, but they do help in judging catering requirements.)


Does mathematics have anything to do with biology? In this talk, I will review a number of interdisciplinary collaborations in which I have been involved over the years that have coupled mathematical modelling with experimental studies to try to advance our understanding of processes in biology and medicine. Examples will include somatic evolution in tumours, collective cell movement in epithelial sheets, cell invasion in neural crest, and pattern formation in slime mold. These are examples where verbal reasoning models are misleading and insufficient, while mathematical models can enhance our intuition.


Fixation and spread of somatic mutations in adult human colonic epithelium Cancer causing mutations must become permanently fixed within tissues. I will describe how, by visualizing somatic clones, we investigated the means and timing with which this occurs in the human colonic epithelium. Modelling the effects of gene mutation, stem cell dynamics and subsequent lateral expansion revealed that fixation required two sequential steps. First, one of around seven active stem cells residing within each colonic gland has to be mutated. Second, the mutated stem cell has to replace neighbours to populate the entire gland. This process takes many years because stem cell replacement is infrequent (around once every 9 months). Subsequent clonal expansion due to gland fission is also rare for neutral mutations. Pro-oncogenic mutations can subvert both stem cell replacement to accelerate fixation and clonal expansion by gland fission to achieve high mutant allele frequencies with age. The benchmarking and quantification of these behaviours allows the advantage associated with different gene specific mutations to be compared and ranked irrespective of the cellular mechanisms by which they are conferred. The age related mutational burden of advantaged mutations can be predicted on a gene-by-gene basis to identify windows of opportunity to affect fixation and limit spread.


Comparing models with data using computational algebra In this talk I will discuss how computational algebraic geometry and topology can be useful for studying questions arising in systems biology. In particular I will focus on the problem of comparing models and data through the lens of computational algebraic geometry and statistics. I will provide concrete examples of biological signalling systems that are better understood with the developed methods.

11 May 2018
Claudia Silva & Oscar Garcia-Prada

Oscar García-Prada - The Mathematics of Kolam

In Tamil Nadu, a state in southern India, it is an old tradition to decorate the entrance to the home with a geometric figure called ``Kolam''. A kolam is a geometrical line drawing composed of curved loops, drawn around a grid pattern of dots. This is typically done by women using white rice flour. Kolams have connections to discrete mathematics, number theory, abstract algebra, sequences, fractals and computer science. After reviewing a bit of its history, Oscar will explore some of these connections. 

Claudia Silva - Kolam: An Ephemeral Women´s art of South India

Kolam is a street drawing, performed by women in south India. This daily ritual of "putting" the kolam on the ground represents a time of intimacy, concentration and creativity. Through some videos, Claudia will explain some basic features of kolam, focusing on anthropological, religious, educational and artistic aspects of this beautiful female art expression.

The lectures are accompanied by a photography exhibition at Wolfson College.

22 March 2018
Marie Hicks, Adrian Johnstone, Cliff Jones, Julianne Nyhan, Mark Priestly, Reinhard Siegmund-Schultze

The BSHM meeting on “The history of computing beyond the computer” looks at the people and the science underpinning modern software and programming, from Charles Babbage’s design notation to forgotten female pioneers.

Registration will be £32.50 for standard tickets, £22.00 for BSHM members and Oxford University staff, and £6.50 for students. This will include tea/coffee and biscuits at break times, but not lunch, as we wanted to keep the registration fee to a minimum. A sandwich lunch or a vegetarian sandwich lunch can be ordered separately on the Eventbrite page. If you have other dietary requirements, please use the contact button at the bottom of this page. There is also a café in the Mathematical Institute that sells hot food at lunchtime, alongside sandwiches and snacks, and there are numerous places to eat within easy walking distance.


21 March 2018

17:00 Andrew Hodges, University of Oxford, author of "Alan Turing: The Enigma” on 'Alan Turing: soft machine in a hard world.’

22 March 2018

9:00 Registration

9:30 Adrian Johnstone, Royal Holloway University of London, on Charles Babbage's design notation

10:15 Reinhard Siegmund-Schultze, Universitetet i Agder, on early numerical methods in the analysis of the Northern Lights

11:00 Tea/Coffee

11:30 Julianne Nyhan, University College London, on Father Busa and humanities data

12:15 Cliff Jones, University of Newcastle, on the history of programming language semantics

13:00 Lunch

14:00 Mark Priestley, author of "ENIAC in Action, Making and Remaking the Modern Computer"

14:45 Marie Hicks, University of Wisconsin-Madison, author of "Programmed Inequality: How Britain Discarded Women Technologists and Lost Its Edge In Computing"

15:30 Tea/Coffee

16:00 Panel discussion to include Martin Campbell-Kelly (Warwick), Andrew Herbert (TNMOC), and Ursula Martin (Oxford)

17:00 End of conference

Co-located event

23 March, in Mathematical Institute, University of Oxford, Symposium for the History and Philosophy of Programming, HaPoP 2018, Call for extended abstracts