Past Alan Tayler Lecture

20 November 2017
Professor Kate Smith-Miles

Many industrial optimisation problems involve the challenging task of efficiently searching for optimal decisions from a huge set of possible combinations. The optimal solution is the one that best optimises a set of objectives or goals, such as maximising productivity while minimising costs. If we have a nice mathematical equation for how each objective depends on the decisions we make, then we can usually employ standard mathematical approaches, such as calculus, to find the optimal solution. But what do we do when we have no idea how our decisions affect the objectives, and thus no equations? What if all we have is a small set of experiments, where we have tried to measure the effect of some decisions? How do we make use of this limited information to try to find the best decisions?

This talk will present a common industrial optimisation problem, known as expensive black box optimisation, through a case study from the manufacturing sector. For problems like this, calculus can’t help, and trial and error is not an option! We will introduce some methods and tools for tackling expensive black-box optimisation. Finally, we will discuss new methodologies for assessing the strengths and weaknesses of optimisation methods, to ensure the right method is selected for the right problem.

23 November 2015
Professor Philip Bond

 On November 25th 1915 Albert Einstein submitted his famous paper on the General Theory of Relativity. David Hilbert also derived the General Theory in November 1915 using quite different methods. In the same year Emmy Noether derived her remarkable ‘Noether’s Theorem’ which lies at the heart of much modern Physics. 1915 was a very good vintage indeed. We will take a brief walking tour of General Relativity using some of the ideas of Noether, Hilbert and Einstein to examine gravitational redshift, gravitational lensing, the impact of General Relativity on GPS systems and high precision atomic clocks, and Black holes all of which can be summarised by asking ‘how long is a piece of spacetime?’ 

4 March 2015
Martin Escardo

 Voevodsky asked what the topology of the universe is in a 
continuous interpretation of type theory, such as Johnstone's 
topological topos. We can actually give a model-independent answer: it 
is indiscrete. I will briefly introduce "intensional Martin-Loef type 
theory" (MLTT) and formulate and prove this in type theory (as opposed 
to as a meta-theorem about type theory). As an application or corollary, 
I will also deduce an analogue of Rice's Theorem for the universe: the 
universe (the large type of all small types) has no non-trivial 
extensional, decidable properties. Topologically this is the fact that 
it doesn't have any clopens other than the trivial ones.