Monday, 20 October 2014

Mathematics and weather forecasting - authors win award

Invisible in the Storm

'Invisible in the Storm - the Role of Mathematics in Understanding Weather'  by Ian Roulstone and John Norbury has been awarded the Louis J. Battan Author's Award by the Council of the American Meteorological Society.

The book is the first to recount the history, personalities, and ideas behind one of the greatest scientific successes of modern times--the use of mathematics in weather prediction. Although humans have tried to forecast weather for millennia, mathematical principles were used in meteorology only after the turn of the twentieth century. From the first proposal for using mathematics to predict weather, to the supercomputers that now process meteorological information gathered from satellites and weather stations, Ian Roulstone and John Norbury narrate the groundbreaking evolution of modern forecasting.

John Norbury is an Emeritus Associate Professor of Applied Mathematics at the University of Oxford.

Friday, 17 October 2014

How wedding registries reveal migration paths

Korean Wedding

Oxford Mathematics Professor Mason Porter and former postdoctoral student Sang Hoon Lee, now of Sungkyunkwan University in Korea, have found a new way of analysing population mix. In the past patterns in human movement have been studied using traffic data, mobile phone records, and even dollar bill circulation. Their new investigation uses centuries-old Korean family books, called jokbos (족보 in Korean), as a record of emigration by female brides. The analysis of this movement, as well as more recent census data, shows that both diffusion- and convection-like phenomena may play a role in mixing different populations.


Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Diffusion of the dead - mathematics, zombies and the spread of infection


No doubt you have found yourself screaming at the stupidity of characters in a horror movie. You would never have walked into that room alone, you would always make sure your weapon was loaded and you would certainly always ensure a monster was dead before returning to the corpse!

But what are the real rules that you should live by if the dead should begin to rise? Dr Thomas Woolley and coauthors from the Mathematical Institute, University of Oxford believe they have come up with the answer:

  1. Run! Your first instinct should always to be put as much distance between you and the zombies as possible.
  2. Only fight from a position of power. The simulations clearly show that humans can only survive if humans are more deadly that the zombies.
  3. Be wary of your fellow humans.

All of these rules seem fairly sensible, but they are not simply based on common sense. The researchers produced a mathematical model of disease infection and demonstrated that these three rules emerged as the best survival strategy.

The model is based on the idea that the zombies undergo a “random walk” as they slowly shuffle round lurching from one position to the next. In this case your time before a zombie interaction grows quicker if you run away, compared to if you try and slow them down by blocking their path.

What the researchers did not expect was for the speed of infection to depend on the human population, although in hindsight it is obvious; an infection can only travel if there are hosts to infect. This means that if you are surrounded by humans that are not the best fighters then all they are to you are more potential zombies. In such a case your best course of action may be to “get rid” of the humans. However, the researchers would like to make clear that they would not support such an unethical strategy.

This and other articles scientifically investigating a zombie invasion can be found in a new book Mathematical Modelling of Zombies soon to be published by the University of Ottawa press.

Although seemingly trivial the maths in this book are the tools that researchers use everyday to understand how infections such as swine flu, HIV and Ebola spread.


Dr Thomas Woolley works as a researcher in mathematical biology at Oxford and a maths communicator at the London Science Museum. He hopes one day zombies and humans will learn to live together.


Other links

Thursday, 2 October 2014

The mathematics of oxygen and tumours


Oxygen has a significant prognostic effect on cancer treatment, with well-oxygenated regions being more sensitive to radiotherapy than low oxygen regions. Better understanding of oxygen distribution could allow escalation of dose to hypoxic regions and better prognosis.

2020 Science Fellow and member of the Mathematical Institute, Dr. Alex Fletcher, is co-author on Oxygen Consumption Dynamics in Steady-State Tumour Models and was interviewed by the Royal Society to coincide with the inaugural issue of their new journal Open Science. He talks about his research into oxygen and cancer and the importance of open science.





Thursday, 2 October 2014

Jacqueline Anne Stedall (4 August 1950–27 September 2014)

Jackie Stedall

Jackie Stedall came to Oxford in October 2000 as Clifford-Norton Student in the History of Science at Queen’s College. She held degrees of BA (later MA) in Mathematics from Cambridge University (1972), MSc in Statistics from the University of Kent (1973), and PhD in History of Mathematics from the Open University (2000). She also had a PGCE in Mathematics (Bristol Polytechnic 1991). In due course she became Senior Research Fellow in the Oxford Mathematical Institute and at Queen’s College, posts from which, knowing that she was suffering from incurable cancer, she took early retirement in December 2013.

This was her fifth career. Following her studies at Cambridge and Canterbury she had been three years a statistician, four years Overseas Programmes Administrator for War on Want, seven years a full-time parent, and eight years a schoolteacher before she became an academic. 

Although her career as a researcher, scholar and university teacher spanned less than fourteen years, it was greatly influential. She published nine books, more than twenty articles, and major contributions to the on-line edition (with transcriptions, translations and commentary) of the manuscripts of Thomas Harriot. She earned herself an international reputation—twice she received invitations (courteously refused) to lecture at an ICM, for example.

Her Oxford teaching was equally successful. It was characterised by innovation. Jackie was instrumental in founding two third-year courses, History of Mathematics and, in a very different area, jointly with Cath Wilkins, the Part B Structured Projects in applied mathematics. She supervised many third- and fourth-year dissertations on historical topics. She earned awards for excellence in teaching on two separate occasions.

Jackie was exceptionally well organised, and expected the same in others. University lectures and classes, seminar and conference papers, all were prepared months ahead, never more than a few weeks after she had accepted a commission. Book manuscripts, copy for journals she edited, all reached the publisher safely before the contract date.

She was a great scholar, teacher, editor and organiser. More than that: to very many of us she was a great colleague and friend.

$\Pi$MN: Oxford: 1 October 2014

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Poking, Shells and Tumours - see what Oxford Mathematicians really get up to

Shell growth mathematics

Mathematicians work across an ever-expanding range of disciplines, from the physical and medical sciences to economics and the social sciences. These three short films display that diversity. Dominic Vella explains how mathematical modelling helps us to quantify what the act of poking is telling us; Helen Byrne explains how she uses mathematical techniques to gain insights in to a number of medical and biological systems, notably in tumour growth; while Derek Moulton's interest in mathematical mechanical biology has led him to try and understand the universal patterns that are seen in seashells. All demonstrate how mathematics is critical to modelling and understanding the material world.





Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Mathematical Institute launches new website

The Mathematical Institute is pleased to announce the launch of its new website. The new website has been reworked from the ground up to be modern, flexible, engaging and inviting to current and future mathematicians and friends. A collaboration with William Joseph produced an initial design which was then developed and implemented in-house and, being based on modern technologies, is compatible with mobile devices.

Many content maintainers across the department have updated and enhanced their content to fit within the new website look, feel and functionality. These content maintainers will further develop their content over the coming weeks and more generally be taking a proactive role curating and maintaining the site over time.

We hope that you enjoy the new browsing experience. If you have feedback about a specific page please use the contact link at the bottom of the relevant page. If you have more general feedback, please use the site wide contact form.

Sunday, 28 September 2014

James Maynard wins the 2014 SASTRA Ramanujan Prize

James Maynard

The 2014 SASTRA Ramanujan Prize has been awarded to Dr. James Maynard of Oxford University and the University of Montreal, Canada for his contribution to Number theory, especially in the field of Prime Numbers.

The SASTRA Ramanujan Prize was established in 2005 and is awarded annually for outstanding contributions by young mathematicians to areas influenced by Srinivasa Ramanujan. The age limit for the prize has been set at 32 because Ramanujan achieved so much in his brief life of 32 years. The prize will be awarded during December 21-22 at the International Conference on Number Theory at SASTRA University in Kumbakonam (Ramanujan's hometown) where the prize has been given annually.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Oxford Mathematics' Vicky Neale discusses Euler's Number with Melvyn Bragg


Melvyn Bragg and his guests, including Vicky Neale, Whitehead Lecturer here in Oxford, discuss Euler's number, also known as e. First discovered in the seventeenth century by the Swiss mathematician Jacob Bernoulli when he was studying compound interest, e is now recognised as one of the most important and interesting numbers in mathematics. Roughly equal to 2.718, e is useful in studying many everyday situations, from personal savings to epidemics. Thursday 25 September, 9.00am.

Friday, 19 September 2014