Thursday, 18 May 2017

The Real Butterfly Effect - Tim Palmer's Oxford Mathematics Public Lecture now online

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. In the 1990s, Lorenz’s work was popularised by science writer James Gleick who used the phrase “The Butterfly Effect” to describe Lorenz’s work. The notion that the flap of a butterfly’s wings could change the course of weather was an idea that Lorenz himself used. However, he used it to describe something much more radical - he didn’t know whether the Butterfly Effect was true or not.

In this lecture Tim Palmer discusses Ed Lorenz the man and his work, and compares and contrasts the meaning of the “Butterfly Effect" as most people understand it today, and as Lorenz himself intended it to mean. 

Tim Palmer is Royal Society Research Professor in Climate Physics at the University of Oxford.






Thursday, 18 May 2017

J is for Juggling - the latest in the Oxford Mathematics Alphabet

Juggling is the act of iteratively catching and throwing several objects. To a mathematician a juggling pattern can be described using a mathematical notation called siteswap. The idea of siteswap notation is to keep track of the order in which the objects are thrown. The notation does not indicate what kind of objects are being juggled (e.g. balls, rings, clubs, etc) or whether a special kind of throw is performed (e.g. under-the-leg or behind-the-back).

Want to know more? Let Data Scientist and Oxford Mathematician Ross Atkins explain all in the latest in our Oxford Mathematics Alphabet series.


Friday, 12 May 2017

Sandy Patel wins Best Support Staff award

Mathematicians, young and old, win awards, lots of them and Oxford mathematicians have their fair share. However, any university department is of course also home to a range of support staff whose job it is, on a good day, to enable academics to make the best use of their time.

To recognise this role the Oxford University Students Union (OUSU) has its own awards for best support staff, and this year we are delighted to announce that Oxford Mathematics's own Sandy Patel scooped a prize. Sandy is Graduate Studies Administrator and her role is to ensure that our over 200 Graduate Students have the best possible experience during their time in Oxford and together with their Faculty supervisors are able to produce the best research in the subject. Graduate Students are the critical component of any research university and giving them the best support is vital. 

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Some advice for gamblers from Oxford Mathematics

We all know there is no guaranteed way of beating the bank in a casino or predicting the tossing of a coin. Well maybe. Perhaps a little more thought and a large dose of mathematics could help optimise our strategies.

Oxford Mathematicians Jan Obloj and colleagues looked at the optimal strategy of a gambler with cumulative prospect theory (CPT) preferences. CPT preferences capture, in particular, the empirically observed human tendency for being risk averse while winning but being risk seeking when losing. Their research showed that the performance, even of complex betting strategies, can be strictly improved by looking at past betting patterns and by tossing an independent coin. This improvement results from the lack of quasi-convexity of CPT preferences: given two choices we may prefer a mixture of them to either of them individually.

Even better news for gamblers is that if they go through a series of hypothetical choices to determine their particular risk appetites (and hence a numerical CPT representation of their preferences), Jan and colleagues can provide an algorithmic way to compute the bias of the coins which ought to be tossed by the gambler to optimally decide when to stop playing in the casino.

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Philip Maini elected to the Academy of Medical Sciences

Oxford Mathematician Philip Maini has been elected to the Academy of Medical Sciences for 2017. The Academy's mission is to advance biomedical and health research and its translation into benefits for society and this year's elected Fellows, 46 in total, have expertise that spans women’s health, immunology, public health and infectious disease among many other fields.

Philip Maini FRS, who is Professor of Mathematical Biology and Director of the Wolfson Centre for Mathematical Biology here in Oxford, is a leading figure in the field of mathematical biology with research interests spanning the modelling of avascular and vascular tumours, normal and abnormal wound healing, applications of mathematical modelling in pattern formation in early development, as well as the theoretical analysis of the mathematical models that arise in all these applications.


Monday, 8 May 2017

Ulrike Tillmann elected member of the German National Academy of Sciences

Oxford Mathematics's Ulrike Tillmann has been elected a member of the German National Academy of Sciences. The Academy, Leopoldina, brings together the expertise of some 1,500 distinguished scientists to bear on questions of social and political relevance, publishing unbiased and timely scientific opinions. The Leopoldina represents the German scientific community in international committees and pursues the advancement of science for the benefit of humankind and for a better future.

Historically it was known under the German name Deutsche Akademie der Naturforscher Leopoldina until 2007, when it was declared a national academy of Germany. The Leopoldina is located in Halle. Founded in 1652, the Leopoldina claims to be the oldest continuously existing learned society in the world.

Monday, 8 May 2017

Mathematical Institute receives Athena Swan Silver Award

The Athena SWAN charter was establised in 2005 to encourage and recognise commitment to advancing the careers of women in science. In 2013 the Mathematical Institute here in Oxford was awarded a bronze medal and now, four years later, we are pleased to announce that we have been upgraded to silver.

Martin Bridson, Head of Department, said of the award: "Our Athena SWAN work supports the Department’s overarching aim of creating a working environment in which students and staff alike can achieve their full potential. This is a constant feature of all that we do, of course, but the process of self-reflection required in preparing our submission for this award provided a focus and stimulus to action that will benefit us all.

It is vital that the country’s leading departments be seen as beacons of commitment to supporting the work/life balance of their members and to redressing the under-representation of women in mathematics. This high-profile award does much to further our efforts in this direction."

Our application can be viewed here.

Thursday, 27 April 2017
Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Live Podcasts of Oxford Mathematics Public Lectures in May

Our successful Public Lectures are now podcasted live. For details of the two lectures in May please follow the links.

Tim Palmer - The Butterfly Effect - what does it really signify' 5pm, 9 May

Marcus du Sautoy - The Sound of Symmetry and the Symmetry of Sound 5pm, 11 May

More information about our Public Lectures past and present and posters for all of them can be found here.

Saturday, 22 April 2017

In Praise of Plato - Willow Winston's Sculptures in the Andrew Wiles Building

The Andrew Wiles Building, our home here in Oxford, is very much a public space with its large exhibition and conference facilities and public cafe. We have hosted theatrical productions, most recently Creation Theatre's stark production of Orwell's '1984' and in particular we have provided an outlet for artists and photographers to display their work.

Yet we are of course primarily a mathematics building - mathematics and mathematicians are evident everywhere you go from Roger Penrose's tiling at the entrance to the mathematical-shaped crystals at the heart of the building. 

Our latest exhibition, Sculptor Willow Winston's 'In Praise of Plato' represents all those elements. An artistic exploration of symmetry, it is a marriage of mathematics and art in a public setting. In Willow's own words "experimenting with geometrical form fabricated in metals, much based on work I have done with Plato's Perfect Solids, I use reflective materials allowing a union between real and virtual worlds, enhancing our ability to climb into the imagination. "

The exhibition, in the Mezzanine space of the Andrew Wiles Building, is open from 8am-6pm Monday to Friday and runs until 21 May.