Does Life know about quantum mechanics? - Jim Al-Khalili

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Physicists and chemists are used to dealing with quantum mechanics, but biologists have thus far got away without having to worry about this strange yet powerful theory of the subatomic world. However, times are changing as Jim Khalili describes in this Oxford Mathematics Roger Penrose Public Lecture.

There is now solid evidence that enzymes use quantum tunnelling to accelerate chemical reactions, while plants and bacteria use a quantum trick in photosynthesis – sending lumps of sunlight energy in multiple directions at once. It even appears that some animals have the ability to use quantum entanglement – what Einstein called “spooky action at a distance” – as a compass to ‘see’ the earth’s magnetic field. In our research at the University of Surrey we are discovering that life may even have evolved mechanisms to control genetic mutations caused by quantum tunnelling of protons between strands of DNA. Welcome to the exciting new field of quantum biology.

Jim Al-Khalili CBE FRS is an academic, author and broadcaster. He holds a Distinguished Chair in Theoretical Physics at the University of Surrey where he conducts research in quantum physics. He has written fifteen books on popular science, between them translated into over twenty-six languages. He is a regular presenter of TV science documentaries and the long-running BBC Radio 4 programme, The Life Scientific.

Please email @email to register to attend in person.

The lecture will be broadcast on the Oxford Mathematics YouTube Channel on Wednesday 15 November at 5pm and any time after (no need to register for the online version).

The Oxford Mathematics Public Lectures are generously supported by XTX Markets.

Please contact us with feedback and comments about this page. Created on 16 Oct 2023 - 16:56.

Five get to do maths - our new Martingale Scholars

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These Famous Five are our 2023-24 cohort of Martingale Postgraduate Foundation Scholars who we are delighted to welcome to Oxford Mathematics. Rik Knowles, Joshua Procter, Charlotte Nash, Callum Marsh and Allan Perez are studying with us on our Mathematical Science MSc course, the first cohort of Martingale Scholars to study with us.

The Martingale Scholarships not only provide funding for course fees and stipends for UK students, but also provide additional support in the form of leadership training, career development and the ability to access a range of research and industry placements. Scholars will join a community of researchers from five leading UK universities as well as businesses across the country.

The Foundation will prioritise students for whom family income has been or would be a barrier to postgraduate education.

If you are thinking about applying for a 2024 Martingale Scholarship then make sure you apply by the deadline of 25th October 2023.

Lots more information here including how to apply

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The first day of term

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9am today, Lecture Theatre 1, Andrew Wiles Building, home to Oxford Mathematics. The first day of term. Our new undergraduates wait for the first lecture of their first day. The topic? 'Probability' with Matthias Winkel, here pictured with 250 students. First and second year lectures are followed by tutorials where students go through the week's lectures and problem sheets with their tutor in their college.

Let their journey begin.

Some lectures from the Probability course will be on our YouTube Channel soon. Many other student lectures are already there along with Public Lectures and short films where our mathematicians talk about maths (among other things).

Please contact us with feedback and comments about this page. Created on 09 Oct 2023 - 14:37.

Now we are 10


How mathematical time flies. The Andrew Wiles Building, home to Oxford Mathematics, was opened in October 2013 and has been instrumental in attracting students, researchers and the wider public to Oxford and to mathematics. To mark this 10th anniversary, we asked everyone in Oxford Mathematics to nominate people for a series of photographs to celebrate the people who study and work here.

Here are the nominations, featuring undergraduates, a Nobel Prize winner, unsung heroes including those who got us through Covid, and a tribute to the people who helped make it happen all those years ago.

The full gallery

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Around the World in 80 Games - Marcus du Sautoy

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Join Marcus for this Oxford Mathematics Public Lecture as he takes us on a mathematical journey across the centuries and through countries, continents and cultures in search of the games we love to play. Based on his new book, he looks at the way mathematics has always been deeply intertwined with games and investigates how games themselves can provide us with opportunities for mathematical insight into the world.

From backgammon to chess, Catan to Snakes and Ladders, games are not simply an enjoyable diversion. They are rather the height of human ingenuity. Ours is the species that loves playing games: not homo sapiens but homo ludens.  The lecture is suitable for everyone ‘from age 8 to 108.’  Come and join Marcus on his journey Around the World in 80 Games. You simply can’t lose…

Tuesday 03 October 2023
5-6pm Andrew Wiles Building, Mathematical Institute, Oxford

Marcus du Sautoy is Charles Simonyi Professor for the Public Understanding of Science in Oxford and Professor of Mathematics.

Please email @email to register.

The lecture will be broadcast on the Oxford Mathematics YouTube Channel on 24th October at 5pm, and can be watched any time after.

The Oxford Mathematics Public Lectures are generously supported by XTX Markets.

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Patterns in Science and Art - Liliane Lijn, Marcus du Sautoy and Fatos Ustek with Conrad Shawcross

Artwork from exhibition

The search for and creation of patterns is intrinsic to both science and art. But so is the desire to understand how and why those patterns break down and to uncover the implications for the scientist and the artist.

Artist Liliane Lijn, curator Fatos Ustek and mathematician Marcus du Sautoy will share their experience and understanding of pattern and where it has taken them in their scientific and artistic careers. Conrad Shawcross will chair the discussion and provide his own unique perspective as represented by his 'Cascading Principles' Exhibition.

Liliane Lijn is an American-born artist who has exhibited at the Venice Biennale, and was recently short listed for her design for the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square. Marcus Sautoy is a mathematician and Professor for the Public Understanding of Science in Oxford. Fatos Ustek is curator of the 'Cascading Principles' exhibition and curator of the sculpture park at Frieze London. Conrad Shawcross is an artist specialising in mechanical sculptures based on philosophical and scientific ideas.

Thursday 28 September, 5.30pm
Mathematical Institute, Oxford

Please email @email to register.

Please contact us with feedback and comments about this page. Created on 18 Sep 2023 - 09:13.

The Maths of Shrinkflation

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In times of inflation - and there is a lot of it around just now - companies like to avoid price hikes. A favourite tactic is to reduce product size while keeping the price the same. But do you know how the maths works?

James Munro explains the mathematical cunning of shrinkflation, the first in a series of (very) short films about numeracy, a skill we all need to navigate our way around the world, but which we perhaps take for granted.

You can watch the video below and also tune in to our YouTube Channel for a range of student lectures, Public Lectures and short films.


Please contact us with feedback and comments about this page. Created on 04 Sep 2023 - 13:28.

Artur Ekert receives Royal Society Milner award

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Oxford Mathematician Artur Ekert has been awarded the Milner Award and Lecture by the Royal Society for "pioneering contributions to quantum communication and computation, which transformed the field of quantum information science from a niche academic activity into a vibrant interdisciplinary field of industrial relevance."

Professor Ekert said: "Unearthing the connections between cryptography and the foundations of quantum theory has been a captivating journey and it is very gratifying to have my work recognised. Quantum theory has undeniably unlocked numerous novel ways to understand and harness nature, including information, and I am excited to see what developments unfold over the near future."

Artur Ekert is a pioneer in the field of quantum information science, playing a leading role in transforming this field from a relatively obscure area of study into a vibrant, interdisciplinary arena of research. His invention of entanglement-based quantum cryptography forged connections between the foundations of quantum physics and secure communication. This led to a surge in research activity worldwide, and it continues to inspire new research directions.

In addition to his celebrated discovery that Bell's inequalities can be used for eavesdropping detection, Ekert has made numerous significant contributions to the theoretical foundations and experimental realisations of quantum communication and computation. These include his pioneering research on the universality of quantum logic gates, the development of the first methods for stabilising and protecting quantum operations, elucidation of the unifying structure of quantum algorithms, and the proposal of one of the first practical designs for quantum computation, among other achievements.

Artur adds: "the field of quantum technology is in a state of overdrive. Academia, industry, government agencies, spooks, journalists, and even my neighbour’s dog (trust me, it's an exceptionally bright dog) are completely enamoured with quantum computers and similar concepts. This social phenomenon fascinates me no end. Indeed, quantum theory has undeniably unlocked numerous novel ways to understand and harness nature, including information.

But what if, perchance, the theory is eventually refuted—for instance, if some unexpected, fundamental limitation thwarts attempts to build a scalable quantum computer? I would be absolutely thrilled to see that unfold! Such a development is, by all means, the most exciting prospect. It would not only instigate a revision of our fundamental understanding of the laws of physics but might also reveal new, potentially even more captivating types of computation. Because if something puts a halt to quantum mechanics, we should anticipate an intriguing new 'whatever-halts-quantum-mechanics' theory, followed by equally exciting 'whatever-halts-quantum-computers' computers."

Artur Ekert was born in Wroclaw, Poland and studied physics at the Jagiellonian University in Cracow and at the University of Oxford. He is a professor of quantum physics in Oxford, a fellow of Merton College and Lee Kong Chian Centennial Professor at the National University of Singapore and founding director of the Centre for Quantum Technologies (CQT) in Singapore. In addition to his many achievements listed above, Artur has also explored the connections between mathematical proofs and the laws of physics in his writings, as well as authored several popular articles on the history of science. Beyond academia, Ekert is a scuba diving instructor and an enthusiastic aviator, harbouring a special fondness for South African wine.

Please contact us with feedback and comments about this page. Created on 30 Aug 2023 - 09:37.

Four Ways of Thinking: Statistical, Interactive, Chaotic and Complex

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Oxford Mathematics Public Lecture - Four Ways of Thinking: Statistical, Interactive, Chaotic and Complex - David Sumpter

Mathematics is about finding better ways of reasoning. But for many applied mathematicians, the primary mission is to shape their minds in a way that gets them closer to the truth. The calculations are secondary, the real question is: how we can better understand the world around us?

David will take us on a journey through applied mathematics from statistics all the way to complexity theory, lifting examples from his work with football clubs -  signing the best players (statistical thinking) or organising an attack (complex thinking) - and from every day life - bickering less with our partners (interactive thinking) and learning to let go (chaotic thinking). David reimagines applied mathematics as a set of tools for life, from big work decisions to how we treat our friends, family and work colleagues. No problem is too big or too small for a mathematical solution.

Professor David Sumpter is author of five books including Soccermatics (2016), Outnumbered (2018) and Four Ways of Thinking (2023). His research covers everything from the inner workings of fish schools and ant colonies, through social psychology and segregation in society, to machine learning and artificial intelligence. He has consulted for leading football clubs and national teams and has written for The Economist 1843, The Telegraph, The Guardian, Prospect and FourFourTwo magazine.

5-6pm Wednesday 13 September 2023 Andrew Wiles Building, Mathematical Institute, Oxford

Please email @email to register.

The lecture will be broadcast on our YouTube Channel exactly three weeks later, 5pm, 4th October and any time after.

The Oxford Mathematics Public Lectures are generously supported by XTX Markets.

Please contact us with feedback and comments about this page. Created on 27 Aug 2023 - 21:39.

Alison Etheridge awarded the 2023 IMA–LMS David Crighton Medal

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Alison Etheridge has been awarded the 2023 IMA–LMS David Crighton Medal for servies to mathematics and the mathematical community.

As well as acknowledging her mathematical excellence, the citation describes how "Alison has played an active role in encouraging women in mathematics. She has provided excellent guidance and mentoring to female PhD students and junior colleagues, who now have successful careers in their own right.  By sharing her experiences, about her research and career path, she has shown how she balanced her career and family life, providing suggestions on how partners of women in mathematics and employers, can be supportive of them."

Alison is Professor of Probability in Oxford, having worked at the Universities of Cambridge, Berkeley, Edinburgh and Queen Mary University London before returning to Oxford. Her interests have ranged from abstract mathematical problems to concrete applications with her recent work focused on mathematical modelling of population genetics. She was Head of the Department of Statistics in Oxford until August 2022.

The David Crighton Medal was established by the Councils of the LMS and IMA in 2002 in order to pay tribute to the memory of Professor David George Crighton FRS for services both to mathematics and to the mathematical community.

Please contact us with feedback and comments about this page. Created on 16 Aug 2023 - 13:38.