Plus Blog

October 15, 2007
Monday, October 15, 2007

We visit the European Women in Mathematics conference and talk to two leading mathematicians, Caroline Series and Cheryl Praeger.

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posted by Plus @ 4:42 PM


October 1, 2007
Monday, October 01, 2007

We update you on the BA Festival of Science and talk to Reidun Twarock, who finds symmetry in viruses and uses maths to understand them.

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posted by Plus @ 4:45 PM


October 1, 2007
Monday, October 01, 2007

Industrial Mathematics Internships

The Industrial Mathematics Internship, a joint program run by The Smith Institute and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), was launched at the Institute of Engineering and Technology (IET) on the 18th of September 2007.

The Internship is a way for companies and university research groups to promote direct knowledge exchange and develop long-term working relationships through engaging a dedicated postgraduate researcher to work on a specific industrial project over a period of 3 to 6 months.

The Smith Institute manages the Knowledge Transfer Network for Industrial Mathematics (KTN) and hopes that the program will inject fresh energy into UK businesses by bringing cutting-edge techniques to business innovation and by developing long-term working relationships between companies and universities.

Each Internship is a collaboration between a host company, an intern, and a research group within a university. Industrialists can improve existing, or develop new, operations through the impact of mathematical expertise. Universities can grow new industrial collaborations and relationships, whilst interns can gain first-hand experience of the business environment.

A pilot phase of the initiative will run between September 2007 and August 2008 and will establish 6 Internships. Each Internship will last between 3 and 6 months and will be supported by one of the KTN's Technology Translators, who will assist in establishing the projects, building the relationships, exploiting follow-on opportunities and disseminating a final case study through the industrial mathematics community.

Dr Tim Bradshaw, Head of Innovation, Science and Technology at the CBI, said, "The Industrial Mathematics Internships programme is an excellent example of how business and universities can collaborate for mutual benefit — helping businesses become more innovative and successful by making effective use of skills and knowledge developed in universities while at the same time providing extremely valuable experience for postgraduate researchers. The critical component is that researchers will work on finding solutions to real business problems, something for which the Smith Institute already has an excellent reputation."

Further details on Industrial Mathematics Internships can be found on the KTN web site.

If you would like to apply for an Internships or simply discuss a project idea, please contact Dr Claudia Centazzo at the Smith Institute.

You can also visit the blog by Trevor Maynard from Lloyd's Exposure Management.

Find out more about the Smith Institute on Plus, in the article Helping business make a crust and the career interview with Claudia Centazzo.

posted by Plus @ 12:51 PM


September 19, 2007
Wednesday, September 19, 2007

$3.2 million Cash Injection for Australian Mathematics

Leaders of Australia's mathematical sciences community today welcomed the announcement of a major Collaboration and Structural Reform grant to the Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute (AMSI). AMSI Director, Professor Philip Broadbridge, said: "AMSI has established a unique collaborative venture. This grant will enable us to continue to grow and expand our programs that are critical to industry, innovation and product quality. "Maintaining capacity for innovation and research is dependent on building Australia's base in mathematics and statistics which has been declining for some time," Professor Broadbridge added. Dr Jim Lewis, Chair of the AMSI Board, said he was delighted with the news. "As a former senior executive in the resources industry, I am very conscious of the value of mathematics to the mining and manufacturing industry. Australian education, research and industry need AMSI and the superb expertise it brings together in its ventures. This support is most welcome acknowledgment of the important role mathematics plays in own right and as a foundation enabling discipline." Chairman of the National Strategic Review of Mathematical Sciences Research Working Party, Professor Hyam Rubinstein, also welcomed the news. "We found overwhelming support for AMSI during the Review and funding for it was one of our two priorities," said Professor Rubinstein. "With this announcement, and the increased funding for the teaching of mathematics and statistics in the May budget, universities should now be in the position to address a national need for more mathematics and statistics graduates." A further $1.2 million has been awarded to AMSI member, the University of Sydney, to enhance collaborative mathematics and statistics advanced course delivery across universities using Access Grid Rooms (AGR). The AGRs have been partly funded through the International Centre of Excellence for Education in Mathematics (ICE-EM), which is managed by AMSI and funded by DEST.

posted by Plus @ 10:48 AM


September 12, 2007

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

BA Festival of Science - Day 4

Another evening, another function, this one sponsored by the More Maths Grads programme. Dr Reidun Twarock, to whom I spoke earlier in the day, gave her talk on viruses and symmetry, possibly the most interactive maths I have seen. Icosahedrons made from cardboard and real footballs were thrown into the audience to help explain her mathematical concepts, and the talk was followed by a brief function in which the More Maths Grads people promoted their activities.

Journeying in this morning, I regretted somewhat the dodgy Yorkshire fish and chips I had the night before. I attended a press conference on studies conducted by the University of Bristol that suggests that not only is there trace evidence of drug usage on nearly every UK bank note in circulation, but that the notes circulate quickly enough throughout the country that no particular area has higher instances of drug use on their notes. Cocaine was found on nearly every note, whilst heroine is found on around 5%. The presence of the drugs is not simply because notes are used in drug-taking activities - even fresh new notes have some contamination because they are contaminated very early on through contact with infected notes. Cocaine is particularly sticky, and so only very brief contact can contaminate a note.

The next press conference was from Professor Terence Cosgrove from Revolymer, who has developed a non-stick chewing gum. More to the point, he was at pains to note that it is not "non-stick" but rather "low-adhesive". He has made the chewing low-adhesive by introducing a patented polymer that has hydrophilic ends, and so will wash off the pavement with water.

I spent the afternoon chatting to Plus editorial board member Chris Budd about all sorts of mathematical issues - mainly that of Euler and the role of maths in the food and drink industry. But we also touched on mathematics communication, period costumes, maths in crime solving and maths in Celtic and African knots and art. You can hear all this on the podcast very shortly.

Unfortunately my time at the BA Festival of Science is coming to an end. I am about to head into York for a session entitled "How maths changed my life" followed by the last train back to London. I certainly look forward to attending the 2008 version in Liverpool.

September 11, 2007

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The BA Festival of Science - day 3

The evening of day 2 promised to make day 3 of the science festival very long for night-owl science journalists. I attended the Association of British Science Writers reception, which was a great affair - hardly surprising given the £400 bar tab, unlimited wine on top of this and free food. It was great to meet some well-known British science writers from UK newspapers, and observe the drinking habits of others!

My first stop on day 3 of the Science Festival was to speak to Dr Quentin Atkinson, a post-doctoral research fellow in the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Reading, about his research into the evolution of Indo-European languages. He used statistical modelling techniques borrowed from evolutionary biology to date the age of the Indo-European language family and so test between the two main competing theories of Indo-European origins - that of the Kurgan horsemen and of the Anatolian farming hypotheses.

The modelling involved the use of Bayesian networks and instead of looking at how a gene might have evolved over time, he looked at certain words across the Indo-European languages and found where splits between language groups might have occurred. He looked at 200 words such as "mother", "father" and "rain" across 87 languages and found that the original Indo-European language split around 8700 years ago.

I interviewed Dr Reiden Twarock of York University on the geometric properties of viruses. This is the headline mathematics event of the festival, and tonight is accompanied by a reception sponsored by the More Maths Grads project. Dr Twarock is a thoroughly lovely and engaging lady who is using group theory and geometry to build models of how viruses form. These mathematical tools allow her to zoom in on the mechanisms responsible for virus structure and assembly. The resulting insights can then spark new ideas for the development of new anti-viral drugs. This interview will inform future news and features on Plus.

Throughout the day I chatted to a number of people regarding their posters, including some about optimisation, train timetabling, mathematical modelling of sun-spots and Bayesian modelling of Pacific Island cultural movement. These, again, will all appear as Plus news items.

Lastly I chatted to Dr Anthony Sudbery about all sorts of topics with regard to quantum computing. Parallel worlds, unbreakable codes and entangled particles were just some of topics that I pretended to know about ... .

So, now I'm off to rest my brain and then attend the mathematics function tonight. Watch our podcast and news feed for more information on these above topics over the next few weeks.


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