Thursday, 19 March 2015

Network Science: making sense of a complex world

Network science helps us understand many kinds of Big Data. Since the late 20th century it has been increasingly relevant to people's everyday life. Networks can help us to make sense of our increasingly complex world.
Work with school students and teachers in developing network science skills has demonstrated that it can be a powerful and motivating approach to understanding and theorising solutions to complex social, health and environmental problems. Network science research also provides opportunities to develop many of the skills, habits of mind and ideas that are not being addressed in extant curricula and teaching practice.
Consequently the network science community needs to develop accessible educational materials, tools and techniques. To initiate this process, one key question was posed: What should every person living in the 21st century know about networks by the time they finish secondary education? The result presented here - Network Literacy: Essential Concepts and Core Ideas - is truly a group effort, representing the distillation of the work of over 30 network science researchers, educators, teachers and students from across the world including Mason Porter from the Mathematical Institute in Oxford. 
Thursday, 12 March 2015

Cédric Villani - Birth of an Idea. Public Lecture now online

What goes on inside the mind of a mathematician? Where does inspiration come from? In this lecture, based on his book of the same title, Cédric Villani describes how he encountered obstacles and setbacks, losses of faith and even brushes with madness as he wrestled with a new theorem that culminated in him winning the most prestigious prize in mathematics, the Fields Medal.



Thursday, 5 February 2015

Angkana Rüland wins Hausdorff prize

Angkana Rüland of the Mathematical Institute in Oxford and Junior Research Fellow at Christ Church College has won the Hausdorff prize for the best thesis at the University of Bonn for her work on "On Some Rigidity Properties in PDEs". Since leaving Bonn in April 2014, Angkana has been part of the Oxford Centre for Non-Linear PDE under Sir John Ball.

Thursday, 29 January 2015

G H Hardy in Oxford - the first in our series of Oxford Mathematicians

“I was at my best at a little past forty, when I was a professor at Oxford.”

So wrote G. H. Hardy in 'A Mathematician’s Apology' Godfrey Harold Hardy (1877–1947) was the most important British pure mathematician of the first half of the 20th century. Although he is usually thought of as a Cambridge man, his years from 1920 to 1931 as Savilian Professor of Geometry at Oxford University were among his happiest and most productive. At Oxford he wrote over 100 papers, including many of his most important investigations with his long-term Cambridge collaborator J E Littlewood. 

To celebrate his work we have produced a series of six posters which hang on the walls of the mezzanine floor of the Andrew Wiles Building and which can be downloaded here. Hardy is the first in a series that will feature many towering figures from the past including John Wallis, James Sylvester, Henry Smith, Robert Hooke, Roger Penrose and the Merton School of the 14th century.

PDF icon Godfrey Hardy.pdf

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Oxford named a key founder of Alan Turing Institute

Oxford University will play a key role in the creation and the activities of the new Alan Turing Institute. The Institute will build on the UK's existing academic strengths and help position the country as a world leader in the analysis and application of big data and algorithm research. Its headquarters will be based at the British Library in London.

Oxford is one of the five universities selected to lead the Alan Turing Institute, Rt Hon Dr Vince Cable, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, announced today.

Vince Cable said: "Alan Turing's genius played a pivotal role in cracking the codes that helped us win the Second World War. It is therefore only right that our country's top universities are chosen to lead this new institute named in his honour. Headed by the universities of Cambridge, Edinburgh, Oxford, Warwick and UCL, the Alan Turing Institute will attract the best data scientists and mathematicians from the UK and across the globe to break new boundaries in how we use big data in a fast moving, competitive world."

The delivery of the Institute is being coordinated by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) which invests in research and postgraduate training across the UK. The Institute is being funded over five years with £42 million from the UK government. The selected university partners will contribute further funding. In addition, the Institute will seek to partner with other business and government bodies.

Researchers across Oxford University are already conducting world-class research in data science and analytics, as evidenced by the results of the recent Research Excellence Framework. Oxford's involvement in the Institute will be led by five departments: The Mathematical Institute, Department of Computer Science, Department of Statistics, Department of Engineering Science, and the Oxford Internet Institute.

The new Institute will tap into world-leading strengths and achievements across these scientific disciplines. Examples include the Mathematics of evolving networks. Research from Oxford is now routinely applied by digital marketing companies such as Bloom Media in Leeds to analyse the issue-based conversations taking place on Twitter, in real time. This has led to more responsive marking and to novel crowd-sourced intelligence services. Further examples of work in Oxford and more on the Institute can be found here.


Wednesday, 28 January 2015

James Maynard awarded a Clay Research Fellowship

James Maynard has been awarded a Clay Research Fellowship.  James obtained his doctorate at Oxford in 2013 under the supervision of Roger Heath-Brown and is currently a Fellow by Examination at Magdalen College, Oxford. James is primarily interested in classical number theory, in particular the distribution of prime numbers. His research focuses on using tools from analytic number theory, particularly sieve methods, to study the primes.

The Clay Mathematics Institute (CMI) is a privately funded operating foundation dedicated to increasing and disseminating mathematical knowledge. The CMI supports the work of leading researchers at various stages of their careers and organises conferences, workshops, and an annual summer school. Contemporary breakthroughs are recognized by its annual Research Award.

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

New PROMYS Europe Programme for European Students at Oxford University

We are delighted to annouce that PROMYS Europe will take place in Oxford in July and August of this year. Building on the hugely successful PROMYS programmes in the USA,  PROMYS Europe is a challenging programme designed to encourage mathematically ambitious secondary school students to explore the creative world of mathematics. PROMYS is about asking and answering challenging questions, hard work and experiencing the sheer pleasure and beauty of mathematics.

Applications must be in by 1 April (yes seriously). Full details here.



Thursday, 18 December 2014

Zombie avoidance as a model for disease control - BBC interview


So what should you do if the dead should begin to rise? Dr Thomas Woolley talks to the BBC about avoidance strategies based on mathematical modelling, strategies that can be applied to understanding how infections such as swine flu, HIV and Ebola spread, not least because of the role of media reporting. The item is 3 hours and 17 minutes in to the programme. Thomas also spoke to American TV in Sacramento.


Thursday, 18 December 2014

Oxford Mathematical Sciences ranked first in REF

Our Mathematical Sciences submission to the 2014 Research Excellence Framework, covering research from the Mathematical Institute and the Department of Statistics, has been ranked overall best in the UK. The outcomes, released today, gave Oxford Mathematical Sciences the top ranking for research publications and for the impact of our research outside academia, and the equal top ranking for our research environment.

This outstanding result reflects the extraordinary quality of our faculty and research fellows, as well as the breadth, depth and impact of our core and interdisciplinary research, all underpinned by the  University of Oxford's investment in Mathematical Sciences in the last decade.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Stiffening solids by filling them with holes?

Intuition tells us that when you make holes in a solid, it makes the solid softer. As an extreme example, think of a cellulose sponge, which is made from a material that is essentially wood. While you can only bend, stretch or compress a piece of wood with difficulty, you can easily deform a sponge, because it is highly porous. This intuition agrees with classical mechanics theory. So Rob Style from Oxford Mathematics and colleagues were surprised to find that this doesn't work for soft materials. Taking soft rubber-like solids and filling them with lots of microscopic holes, they found that the more holes, the stiffer the solid became. In fact, mathematical modelling shows that this is controlled by similar physics to that which ensures that small bubbles always stay spherical.

The results are important as they suggest that soft composites (like rubbers or gels) can have lots of new, unexpected properties. For example, if you have a soft, expensive solid, you can save material and weight by filling it with micropores without the usual loss of strength or stiffness. Cells in the body can potentially use this effect to change the large-scale properties of biological tissue like cartilage or skin. The research also demonstrates that you can use this effect to cloak small objects elastically in soft materials so that you can't feel their presence by deforming the soft material - a task which has been considered almost impossible to achieve using simple materials.