Monday, 10 March 2014

Locusts, MPs and mathematics

Dr Christian Yates, Research Fellow at the University of Oxford, will be presenting a poster about the mathematics of locust swarming to MPs and expert judges on Monday 17 March, as part of SET for Britain. Christian’s work will be judged against dozens of other mathematicians’ research in the only national competition of its kind.

Christian, who also works on discovering the causes of African trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness) and cell migration during embryo formation, amongst other topics in Mathematical Biology, was shortlisted from hundreds of applicants to appear in Parliament. 

On presenting his research in Parliament, he said, “As a researcher I aim to communicate my work to as wide an audience as possible. I also think it’s important to be able to explain and justify the work I do. Presenting my work in Parliament will provide me the opportunity to do both.”

Andrew Miller MP, Chairman of the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee, said, “This annual competition is an important date in the parliamentary calendar because it gives MPs an opportunity to speak to a wide range of the country’s best young researchers. 

“These early career engineers, mathematicians and scientists are the architects of our future and SET for Britain is politicians’ best opportunity to meet them and understand their work.”

Christian’s research has been entered into the Mathematics session of the competition, which will end in a gold, silver and bronze prize-giving ceremony. Judged by leading academics, the gold medallist receives £3,000, while silver and bronze receive £2,000 and £1,000 respectively.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Oxford Mathematics Interviews: 'Bryce McLeod - A Life In Mathematics'

Professor Bryce McLeod was one of Oxford's most well-known mathematicians, and an international authority on linear and nonlinear differential equations. In this interview with John Ball, he reflects on his career.

This interview is the first in a series of interviews with distinguished Oxford Mathematicians, intended to shine a light on the work they do and the beauty and power of their subject.

Friday, 21 February 2014

Team Maths Challenge - Regional Final in Oxford

On Monday 24 March Oxford University will host The UK Mathematics Trust 's Regional Final. 48 teams consisting of four children aged from 12 to 14 and one teacher will take part in this search for the best young mathematical brains in the region. The competition starts at 10.30am and consists of four rounds, finishing in time for the  prize-presentation ceremony at 2.45pm. A tough schedule but also a day of fun and a chance to share ideas and meet fellow mathematicians of the present and the future. The Event will be held in the inspiring surroundings of the Examination Schools on High Street where perhaps some of the participants may one day be taking even more demanding examinations.

Monday, 10 February 2014

From Symmetry to the Chaotic - four lectures from Marcus Du Sautoy

In September 2013, as Oxford Mathematics moved in to its new building, Marcus Du Sautoy gave four public lectures covering a range of topics from symmetry to prime numbers, music to the mathematical limits of knowledge. All four lectures were broadcast on Japanese television and are now available to watch online.

The Music of the Primes: a talk about the Riemann Hypothesis and primes

Symmetry: a talk based on his second book, 'Finding Moonshine'

The Secret Mathematicians: the connections between maths and the arts

The Irrational, the Chaotic and Incomplete: the mathematical limits of knowledge

All four form part of the new Oxford Podcasts series The Secrets of Mathematics.

Monday, 10 February 2014

Nomura lecture 2014 - date announced

The Nomura lecture 2014 will take place at The Mathematical Institute on Thursday 5th June 2014. The speaker is Edward Prescott (Nobel laureate 
in economics 2004).

Title: Time Inconsistency with Application to the Design of a Sustainable Financial System


The most valuable asset that people in a sovereign state can have is good, sustainable governance.  Setting up a system of good, sustainable governance is not easy.  The big and well-known problem is time inconsistency of optimal policies.  A mechanism that has proven valuable in mitigating the time inconsistency problem is rule by law. The too-big-to-fail problem in banking is the result of the time inconsistency problem.  In this lecture I will argue there is an alternative financial system that is not subject to the too-big-to-fail problem. The alternative arrangement I propose is a pure transaction banking system.  Transaction banks are required to hold 100% interest bearing reserves and can pay tax-free interest on demand deposits.  With this system, there cannot be a bank run as there is no place to run to.  Mutual arrangements would finance all business investment, which is not currently the case.

Friday, 31 January 2014

Celebrating Michael Atiyah

Sir Michael Atiyah OM, FRS, FRSE is one of the great mathematicians of the last hundred years and to celebrate his 85th birthday a one-day meeting will be held here in Oxford in the Mathematical Institute on 22 April 2014. The meeting will also see the publication by Oxford University Press of a seventh volume of his collected works. Please contact Frances Kirwan ( if you would like to attend the meeting.

Timetable and speakers:

 9.30  Nigel Hitchin - Surfaces, geodesics and hyperkahler geometry

10.30 Coffee

11.00 Graeme Segal - Solitons and inverse scattering

 2.30  Sergei Gukov - The Atiyah-Segal-Singer equivariant index theorem for the Hitchin moduli space

 3.30  Tea

 4.30  Robbert Dijkgraaf - Geometry and matrices 

 5.30  Reception

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Brain Workshop demonstrates the convergence of scientific disciplines

The convergence of the scientific disciplines has gathered pace in recent years and nowhere was this more visible than in the 2014 Oxford Brain Mechanics Workshop held in Oxford on 13 and 14 January 2014. Understanding the brain, its pathology, injury and healing is no longer just a priority for clinicians but is a field where data analysis and mathematical modelling can work with clinical practice to further our understanding of the most complex of human organs.

14 speakers represented a range of disciplines from medical sciences, neuroscience, and biology to engineering, physics and mathematics. Areas of focus included modelling of brain tissue, normal and abnormal brain development and the impact of traumatic brain injury. Over 70 delegates attended the workshop, the second of the series, sharing ideas and beginning the critical process of collaboration.

The workshop was organised by the newly founded International Brain Mechanics and Trauma Lab (IBMTL) with the support of the Oxford Centre Collaborative Applied Mathematics (OCCAM). IBMTL is an international collaboration on projects related to brain mechanics and trauma based in Oxford. This multidisciplinary team is motivated by the need to study brain cell and tissue mechanics and its relation with brain functions, diseases or trauma.

The speakers were as follow:

Prof. Gerhard Holzapfel (Graz University of Technology), Prof. Ellen Kuhl (Stanford University), Dr Peter Stewart (University of Glasgow) and Dr Jeremiah Murphy (Dublin City University) talked about their research on the characterization and mathematical modelling of brain tissue.

Dr Waney Squier (Oxford University Hospitals), Dr David Edwards (Kings College London), Dr Jay Jayamohan (JR Hospital, Oxford) and Dr Nick de Pennington (Oxford University Hospitals) shared their invaluable clinical experiences and research on normal and abnormal human brain development and personalised neurosurgery.

Prof. Lee Goldstein (Boston University), Prof. Anthony Bull (Imperial College London), Prof. Riyi Shi (Purdue University) and Prof. Fernando Maestu (Complutense University of Madrid) presented their traumatic brain injury studies from different perspectives, such as acute injury, chronic sequelae, investigation of CNS injury, and reorganization of functional brain networks in traumatic brain injury.

Dr Stephen Payne (University of Oxford) and Dr Ferath Kherif (Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Vaudois) showed their great efforts on bridging the gap between mathematical models/ new data mining technologies and clinical practice. 

Monday, 20 January 2014
Friday, 17 January 2014

Peter Keevash proves the Existence Conjecture for combinatorial designs

Oxford Mathematics Professor Peter Keevash has proved the Existence Conjecture for combinatorial designs, answering a question of Steiner from 1853. 

A Steiner Triple System on a set X is a collection T of 3-element subsets of X such that every pair of elements of X is contained in exactly one of the triples in T. An example considered by Plücker in 1835 is the affine plane of order three, which consists of 12 triples on a set of 9 points. Plücker observed that a necessary condition for the existence of a Steiner Triple System on a set with n elements is that n be congruent to 1 or 3 mod 6. In 1846, Kirkman showed that this necessary condition is also sufficient.

 In 1853, Steiner posed the natural generalisation of the question: given integers q and r, for which n is it possible to choose a collection Q of q-element subsets of an n-element set X such that any r elements of X are contained in exactly one of the sets in Q? There are some natural necessary divisibility conditions generalising the necessary conditions for Steiner Triple Systems. The Existence Conjecture states that for all but finitely many n these divisibility conditions are also sufficient for the existence of general Steiner systems (and more generally designs).

In his paper Peter proves the Existence Conjecture, and more generally, shows that the natural divisibility conditions are sufficient for clique decompositions of simplicial complexes that satisfy a certain pseudorandomness condition.

Friday, 17 January 2014

Roger Penrose at the Royal Institution

In October 2013, as the new Mathematical Institute opened, Roger Penrose gave a lecture at the Royal Institution talking about forbidden crystal symmetry in mathematics and architecture and its part in the Penrose tiling which adorns the entrance to the new building. Roger also took questions and answers about his work from the audience.