Past Public Lecture

28 June 2017
17:00
to
18:15
Sanjeev Goyal
Abstract

Oxford Mathematics Public Lectures

The Law of the Few - Sanjeev Goyal

The study of networks offers a fruitful approach to understanding human behaviour. Sanjeev Goyal is one of its pioneers. In this lecture Sanjeev presents a puzzle:

In social communities, the vast majority of individuals get their information from a very small subset of the group – the influencers, connectors, and opinion leaders. But empirical research suggests that there are only minor differences between the influencers and the others. Using mathematical modelling of individual activity and networking and experiments with human subjects, Sanjeev helps explain the puzzle and the economic trade-offs it contains.

Professor Sanjeev Goyal FBA is the Chair of the Economics Faculty at the University of Cambridge and was the founding Director of the Cambridge-INET Institute.

28 June 2017, 5.00-6.00pm, Lecture Theatre 1, Mathematical Institute Oxford.

Please email external-relations@maths.ox.ac.uk to register

11 May 2017
17:00
to
18:15
Marcus du Sautoy
Abstract

Symmetry has played a critical role both for composers and in the creation of musical instruments. From Bach’s Goldberg Variations to Schoenberg’s Twelve-tone rows, composers have exploited symmetry to create variations on a theme. But symmetry is also embedded in the very way instruments make sound. The lecture will culminate in a reconstruction of nineteenth-century scientist Ernst Chladni's exhibition that famously toured the courts of Europe to reveal extraordinary symmetrical shapes in the vibrations of a metal plate.

The lecture will be preceded by a demonstration of the Chladni plates with the audience encouraged to participate. Each of the 16 plates will have their own dials to explore the changing input and can accommodate 16 players at a time. Participants will be able to explore how these shapes might fit together into interesting tessellations of the plane. The ultimate idea is to create an aural dynamic version of the walls in the Alhambra.

The lecture will start at 5pm, but the demonstration will be available from 2.30pm.

Please email external-relations@maths.ox.ac.uk to register

 

 

 

9 May 2017
17:00
to
18:15
Abstract

Meteorologist Ed Lorenz was one of the founding fathers of chaos theory. In 1963, he showed with just three simple equations that the world around us could be both completely deterministic and yet practically unpredictable. More than this, Lorenz discovered that this behaviour arose from a beautiful fractal geometric structure residing in the so-called state space of these equations. In the 1990s, Lorenz’s work was popularised by science writer James Gleick. In his book Gleick used the phrase “The Butterfly Effect” to describe the unpredictability of Lorenz’s equations. The notion that the flap of a butterfly’s wings could change the course of future weather was an idea that Lorenz himself used in his outreach talks.

However, Lorenz used it to describe something much more radical than can be found in his three simple equations. Lorenz didn’t know whether the Butterfly Effect, as he understood it, was true or not. In fact, it lies at the heart of one of the Clay Mathematics Millennium Prize problems, and is still an open problem today. In this talk I will discuss Lorenz the man, his background and his work in the 1950s and 1960s, and will compare and contrast the meaning of the “Butterfly Effect" as most people understand it today, and as Lorenz himself intended it to mean. The implications of the “Real Butterfly Effect" for understanding the predictability of nonlinear multi-scale systems (such as weather and climate) will be discussed. No technical knowledge of the field is assumed. 

Please email external-relations@maths.ox.ac.uk to register

Further reading:
T.N.Palmer, A. Döring and G. Seregin (2014): The Real Butterfly Effect. Nonlinearity, 27, R123-R141.

8 February 2017
16:00
to
17:30
Tim Harford
Abstract

Tim Harford, Financial Times columnist and presenter of Radio 4's "More or Less", argues that politicians, businesses and even charities have been poisoning the value of statistics and data. Tim will argue that we need to defend the value of good data in public discourse, and will suggest how to lead the defence of statistical truth-telling.

Please email external-relations@maths.ox.ac.uk to register 

18 January 2017
17:00
Stephen Hawking
Abstract

In recognition of a lifetime's contribution across the mathematical sciences, we are initiating a series of annual Public Lectures in honour of Roger Penrose. The first lecture will be given by his long-time collaborator and friend Stephen Hawking.

Registration will open at 10am on 4 January 2017. Please email:

external-relations@maths.ox.ac.uk from that time only.

When registering please give your name and affiliation - your position, department & organisation/institution as appropriate. Or if you are a member of the General Public, please say so. Places will be allocated on a first come, first served basis with only one place per person. We will only be able to respond if you have a place or are on the waiting list.

We will be podcasting the lecture live. More details to follow.

15 December 2016
17:00
Ian Stewart
Abstract

Puzzling things happen in human perception when ambiguous or incomplete information is presented to the eyes. Rivalry occurs when two different images, presented one to each eye, lead to alternating percepts, possibly of neither image separately. Illusions, or multistable figures, occur when a single image can be perceived in several ways. The Necker cube is the most famous example. Impossible objects arise when a single image has locally consistent but globally inconsistent geometry. Famous examples are the Penrose triangle and etchings by Maurits Escher.

In this lecture Ian Stewart will demonstrate how these phenomena provide clues about the workings of the visual system, with reference to recent research in the field which has modelled simplified, systematic methods by which the brain can make decisions. In these models a neural network is designed to interpret incoming sensory data in terms of previously learned patterns. Rivalry occurs when different interpretations are confused, and illusions arise when the same data have several interpretations.

The lecture will be non-technical and highly illustrated, with plenty of examples.

Please email external-relations@maths.ox.ac.uk to register

3 November 2016
17:00
Doyne Farmer
Abstract

We are increasingly better at predicting things about our environment. Modern weather forecasts are a lot better than they used to be, and our ability to predict climate change illustrates our better understanding of our effect on our environment. But what about predicting our collective effect on ourselves?  We now use tools like Google maps to predict how long it will take us to drive to work, and other small things, but we fail miserably when it comes to many of the big things. For example, the recent financial crisis cost the world tens of trillions of pounds, yet our ability to forecast, understand and mitigate the next economic crisis is very low. Is this inherently impossible? Or perhaps we are just not going about it the right way? The complex systems approach to economics, which brings in insights from the physical and natural sciences, presents an alternative to standard methods. Doyne will explain what this new approach is and give a few examples of its successes so far. He will then present a vision of the economics of the future which will need to confront the serious problems that the world will soon face.
 

Please email external-relations@maths.ox.ac.uk to register

13 October 2016
17:15
Roger Penrose
Abstract

What can fashionable ideas, blind faith, or pure fantasy have to do with the scientific quest to understand the universe? Surely, scientists are immune to trends, dogmatic beliefs, or flights of fancy? In fact, Roger Penrose argues that researchers working at the extreme frontiers of mathematics and physics are just as susceptible to these forces as anyone else. In this lecture, based on his new book, Roger will argue that fashion, faith, and fantasy, while sometimes productive and even essential, may be leading today's researchers astray, most notably in three of science's most important areas - string theory, quantum mechanics, and cosmology. Yet Roger will also describe how fashion, faith, and fantasy have, ironically, also been invaluable in shaping his own work.

Roger will be signing copies of his book after the lecture.

This lecture is now SOLD OUT. Any questions, please email: external-relations@maths.ox.ac.uk

 

 

30 June 2016
17:00
Alison Etheridge
Abstract

How can we explain the patterns of genetic variation in the world around us? The genetic composition of a population can be changed by natural selection, mutation, mating, and other genetic, ecological and evolutionary mechanisms. How do they interact with one another, and what was their relative importance in shaping the patterns we see today

Whereas the pioneers of the field could only observe genetic variation indirectly, by looking at traits of individuals in a population, researchers today have direct access to DNA sequences. But making sense of this wealth of data presents a major scientific challenge and mathematical models play a decisive role. This lecture will distil our understanding into workable models and explore the remarkable power of simple mathematical caricatures in interrogating modern genetic data.

To book please email external-relations@maths.ox.ac.uk

12 May 2016
16:30
to
18:00
Marcus du Sautoy
Abstract

Science is giving us unprecedented insight into the big questions that have challenged humanity. Where did we come from? What is the ultimate destiny of the universe? What are the building blocks of the physical world? What is consciousness?

‘What We Cannot Know’ asks us to rein in this unbridled enthusiasm for the power of science. Are there limits to what we can discover about our physical universe? Are some regions of the future beyond the predictive powers of science and mathematics? Are there ideas so complex that they are beyond the conception of our finite human brains? Can brains even investigate themselves or does the analysis enter an infinite loop from which it is impossible to rescue itself? 

To coincide with the launch of his new book of the same title, Marcus du Sautoy will be answering (or not answering) those questions. He will also be signing copies of the book before and after the lecture.

To book please email external-relations@maths.ox.ac.uk

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