Friday, 15 May 2015

It All Added Up - the Women in Maths Conference 2015

In April 2015, the London Mathematical Society's annual Women in Maths day 
was expanded to four days as part of the LMS 150th Anniversary celebrations, 
and was hosted by the Mathematical Institute in the Andrew Wiles Building.

The meeting was a huge success. About 430 school girls and teachers attended 
the days for school students, which featured talks, hands-on workshops and a 
mathematical treasure hunt around the building. A further 230 university 
mathematicians and mathematical scientists (undergraduates, graduate 
students, postdocs and faculty) attended the remaining two days, which 
included plenary lectures, contributed talks by graduate students and 
postdocs, posters by undergraduates and graduate students, panel 
discussions, lots of opportunities for networking, and even mathematical 


Photo collage

Participants from all four days brought small photos of themselves which 
formed a collage showcasing the present and future of women in mathematics 
in the UK. In addition, the school students (and indeed slightly 
older mathematicians) were encouraged to write questions on post-it notes 
that were addressed by other participants later in the week.

As one school student said, "Everyone else here likes maths!".  Participants 
from Thursday and Friday said "As an undergraduate you see how many 
different possibilities you can get into... there’s so much variety", and "It’s 
absolutely inspiring", and "the attendance speaks for itself – this is 
easily one of the best attended meetings in the LMS calendar... it’s totally 

For more information, including an albums of photos and a link to the 
programme, please see

The event was made possible thanks to sponsorship from the Oxford Vice 
Chancellor's Diversity Fund, the London Mathematical Society, Oxford 
University Press, Schlumberger, Jane Street, and the three Oxford 
departments who organised the event (Mathematics, Statistics and Computer 

Photos by Jennifer Balakrishnan and video filmed and edited by Mareli Augustyn.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

A drone's eye view of the Andrew Wiles Building

Drones may evoke fear and possibility in equal measure, but they also are capable of giving us fresh perspectives, in this case a fascinating journey around the architecture and mathematics of the Andrew Wiles Building, from the unique Penrose tiling at the entrance to the building to the Crystal in the interior which floods light in to the lecture area below and whose shape represents the frequencies of a vibrating drum.







Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Summer with Marcus - Marcus du Sautoy at the Hay, Glastonbury and Wilderness festivals

Oxford Mathematician and Charles Simonyi Professor for the Public Understanding of Science, Marcus du Sautoy can be seen at a range of festivals and events this summer.

On Monday May 10, Marcus is at the Royal Society in partnership with the Royal Shakespeare Company to explore the relationship between science and storytelling. Later in the month (28 & 29 May) he shares the stage at two events at the Hay festival, the first with acclaimed mathematician Cedric Villani, the second continuing the exploration of Narrative and Truth first discussed in Oxford in January with Ben Okri and Elleke Boehmer.

In June Marcus will be performing a new show at the Glastonbury Festival (26-28 June ) called Death by Numbers with a special appearance by Death himself. and at the Wilderness Festival from 6-9 August Marcus will be giving his popular lecture on the Num8er My5teries.

Marcus will also give talks at the European Society for Literature, Science and the Arts from 15-18 June where he is the keynote speaker discussing 'Infinity and Beyond' and at the American and European Mathematical Societies Conference in Portugal, 10-13 June.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Left hand, right hand - the mathematics of chirality

The word ‘chiral’ comes from the Greek word, kheir, which means ‘hand’. An object is said to be chiral if it cannot be superimposed on its mirror image. For instance, your hands are chiral. If you place your right hand over your left hand, it doesn’t fit – the thumbs stick out in opposite directions. And when you turn your hands to point them in the same direction the palm of your hand still looks different to the back of your hand. 

Chirality is all around us, The easiest chiral objects to spot are those that are spiralled, such as shells, horns, springs, spiral staircases, vines and so on. Some chemicals are chiral too, such as DNA, sucrose and carvone. Examples of how different chiral structures interact differently with the body are those that have an odour or taste. You can smell and taste things because you have receptors that pick up the smelly or tasty chemicals. The classical (and historically first) example of how different chiral forms interact via smell was carvone. One enantiomer smells of caraway seed whilst the other enantiomer smells of spearmint. 

In this film The Oxford Sparks team and Oxford Mathematician Alain Goriely go to the Museum of Natural History in Oxford to explore chirality, its uses and its part in explaining the shape and possible alternatives to our universe.



Friday, 1 May 2015
Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Art in the Andrew Wiles Building - Antoni Malinowski at work

The Andrew Wiles Building, home to Oxford Mathematics, is a space where mathematics is embedded in the design, from the Penrose Paving to the two large interior crystals. However, it is also a space filled with light, a natural environment for art that works explicitly with light and colour. It is with this in mind that London-based artist Antoni Malinowski has been commissioned to paint an art work on the white walls of the entrance area of the Building. Antoni will be at work for three months, painting directly onto the walls. Come and watch an artist as he develops and refines his work.

Antoni describes his work as follows:

"Each day the journey of light is registered on the two large white walls facing each other in the luminous foyer. My work begins by sensitising this background by applying a reflective paint made with mica ground to a fine pigment. Then on the south facing wall, using light absorbing pigments, I paint in colours related to the warm end of the spectrum - from red to yellow. These light wave subtractive earth pigments have been used by painters for around forty thousand years. 

On the north facing wall, other historical pigments like green earth, lapis lazuli and azurite are going to mark the cool end of the spectrum - from green to violet. An additional layer of brush strokes will be painted with contemporary paint, made with nano technology interference pigments. These don’t absorb light, but bend the wavelengths. The interaction of these two ways in which colour is ‘produced’ will create the dynamic of the paintings. The wall paintings will appear very different from different viewing points and with different light conditions. The colour will oscillate between darkness and light, appearing and disappearing, showing different sides of binary complementarities. One elongated thin line in each painting will contribute to the opening of the pictorial space - an invitation for an imaginary spatial journey.”

Malinowski's recent work includes a commission inside the award-winning Everyman Theatre in Liverpool.


Friday, 27 March 2015

£2.3 million for Symmetries and Correspondences

Nigel Hitchin, Minhyong Kim, Kobi Kremnizter, and Boris Zilber of Oxford,  Ivan Fesenko of the University of Nottingham, and international collaborators Mikhail Kapranov (IMPU Japan) and Fedor Bogomolov (NYU) have been awarded a £2.3 million grant from the EPSRC for their project on ‘Symmetries and Correspondences’.  

Together with a stellar team of visiting researchers, they aim to assemble into a single coherent framework ideas and techniques arising from the most recent developments in geometry, topology, number theory, mathematical physics, and logic. These will then be brought to bear on key themes of fundamental mathematics centred on the various approaches to non-abelian and/or higher-dimensional class field theory and the theory of L-functions. The goal is bring about substantial unity in the diversity of programmes at the interface of  higher geometric structures and long-standing questions of number theory and geometry.

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.