Friday, 14 November 2014

Axiom - art in the Andrew Wiles Building

Axiom Sculpture

As you enter the main entrance lobby of the Andrew Wiles Building you are greeeted by Axiom. Created by artist Mat Chivers, the sculpture is the winner of the Mathematical Institute's Sculpture Competition. The competition invited artists to propose, and eventually create, a substantial and artistically significant sculpture to be placed in the main entrance lobby. We would encourage you all to visit and meanwhile allow Mat to explain the work and its construction.

Cast aluminium
2.2 x 2 x 1.8 m

‘Axiom’ combines three mathematical ideas - symmetry, asymmetry and entropy - in a sculpture that was made using a combination of hand made and contemporary digital envisioning and fabrication processes.

The complex layering used to develop the sculpture is central to the meaning of the work. The rough quality of some of the areas of the sculpture is a result of digital ‘noise’ resulting from the translation between different modes of fabrication and is intended to act as a memory of the journey through the processes by which it was made.

Alluding to some of the ways that we attempt to understand reality, it is an intentionally open visual proposition, designed to invite interpretation depending on what each viewer sees.

Notes on the process
Six equilateral plywood triangles were physically joined in a symmetrical configuration so that they partially enclose space. Polyurethane foam was then injected into the void which expanded, constrained by the containing geometry.

The resulting object (measuring 20 x 18 x 17 cm) was digitally scanned, resulting in a virtual mesh composed of 4.5 million triangles; the number of polygons in the mesh was then reduced to under seven hundred.

A computer script was applied to the data enabling the mesh to be built as a physical object with the dimensions of the individual triangular profile sections of lattice having a width that is proportional to their length.

A seven-axis robotic milling machine was used to make the full size object in high density polyurethane foam, which was then used as a sacrificial core - encased in plaster and burnt out with molten aluminium. The plaster residue from the casting process remains visible on the surface of the sculpture as a subtle white patination.

Axiom Sculpture

Photographs by Quintin Lake

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

It's all too beautiful - Vicky Neale discusses the beauty of mathematics on BBC Radio 4

In two radio programmes next week Oxford Mathematics' Whitehead Lecturer Vicky Neale will discuss beauty. In the first Vicky, together with historian of science Simon Schaffer and philosophers Barry Smith and Angie Hobbs, examine the mathematics and morality of beauty together with its evolutionary origins and benefits.

In the second programme Vicky and colleagues Ben Green and Peter Neumann discuss the particular beauty of mathematics, with a specific emphasis on mathematics and music.



Monday, 10 November 2014

Marcus Du Sautoy in Bangladesh and New Zealand; and Clacton and Camden


Marcus Du Sautoy, Simonyi Professor for the Public Understanding of Science in Oxford, will be in Bangladesh to give three presentations to the fourth Hay Festival in Dhaka, 22-24 November 2014. On December 9th he will be in New Zealand as the 2014 Royal Society of New Zealand Distinguished Speaker, talking about the Art of Mathematics in Auckland, and the following day he will be in Nelson to give the Thomas Cawthron Memorial Lecture.

By contrast in the New Year, on January 19th, he will be speaking to the Clacton Arts and Literary Society about the Secret Mathematicians and on 29 January and 3 February he will be talking to GCSE and A level students as part of AIM conferences in London. The conferences are intended to explain the stimulation and pleasure that academic subjects provide and are 'aimed' at students, teachers and the general public.

Monday, 20 October 2014

Andreas Hadjittofis on how the Andrew Wiles Building inspires his work

We are always told that our work envrionment is critical to the work itself. But do mathematicians need a stimulating environment for their work? Or will just a computer and some coffee do?

Andreas Hadjittofis, a Masters Students in Mathematical Modelling and Scientific Computing, believes they do. Watch him describe how the Andrew Wiles Building in Oxford works for him.







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.