London Tour Summary

The London Maths in the City tour explores the area around the Tate Modern, the Millenium Bridge and St Paul's Cathedral.  We'll be looking at networks, geometry, resonance, curves and topology through the medium of chalk, sweeties, slinkies and rope!

The tour is suitable for anyone of any age and includes a lot of demonstrations that illustrate the maths behind what you see. If you choose to take your own tour of London and want to make it a bit more interactive, look at the ‘Demonstration’ sections listed in the full tour to see what materials you need to bring with you.

London Maths in the city tour

Tour Summary

1. Graphs and networks at the Tate Modern, London
As we start our walking tour of London, we cast our minds back to a walking tour over another river that gave birth to a new area of mathematics.

2. Creating the Gherkin's curves, London
You can’t take a tour of London and not notice one of the most iconic elements of the skyline – 30 St Mary Axe – otherwise known as the Gherkin. The design and construction of this striking building would not have been possible without mathematics. In fact its tapered curved shape and spectacular construction all rely on the strength of the humble triangle.

3. Art at the Tate Modern
A beautiful example of maths hangs in the Tate Modern. The famous drip paintings of Jackson Pollock have lines of paint that seem to fill the canvas and, no matter how close you look, the painting appears the same: they have a fractal structure. Mathematical analysis has even been used to distinguish Pollock's genuine paintings from forgeries. Chaotic pendulums can mimic Pollock's physical method but we are yet to automate the innate aesthetic judgment of the artist's eye.

4. Catenary chains on the Thames
The shape formed by a chain hanging under its own weight suspended from either end is called a catenary curve. This shape plays a vital role in architecture as it is the perfect shape for an arch. There are some lovely examples of this on the walls of the Thames!

5. The Millennium Bridge, London
There was great excitement when the Millennium Bridge opened in June 2000. Thousands of people flocked to walk across the first dedicated pedestrian bridge built over the Thames since 1894. But as they started to make their way across it the bridge began to sway, affecting people's walking patterns and earning the bridge's notorious nickname, the Wobbly Bridge. But what caused this wobbling?

6. The dome of St Paul's Cathedral, London
One of London's most loved landmarks, St Paul's Cathedral, has looked over the city for more than three centuries. And hidden within its dome is an intriguing example of the interplay between maths and architecture.

7. Topology on the Tube, London
Many tourists (and Londoners) love the Tube as it so easy to navigate. But most don't realise that maths, and some clever design from the 1930s, is showing them the way.

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