public understanding of mathematics

Stephen Hawking was once told by an editor that every equation in a book would halve the sales. Curiously, the opposite seems to happen when it comes to research papers. Include a bit of maths in the abstract (a kind of summary) and people rate your paper higher — even if the maths makes no sense at all.

The 6th European Congress of Mathematics, which took place in Krakow at the beginning of July, wasn't just about mathematicians talking to each other. On the streets of Krakow maths buskers were entertaining the public, handcuffing innocent Krakowians, constructing emergency pentagons and reading minds. So what is maths busking all about? We caught up with Sara Santos, the director of the project, and one of her volunteers to find out.

Imaginary is an interactive mathematics exhibition that inspires the imagination with beautiful images. And what is more exciting it allows anyone to step into the world of maths and play with beautiful mathematical surfaces, symmetry and much more. We went along to the Imaginary Barcelona conference, which brought together people involved in the original exhibition in Germany and its recent successful run throughout Spain.

This summer the Royal Institution is running a series of workshops as part of its Engineering Week where you will have a chance to try your hand at engineering and discover it is rocket science, underwater robotics, hip joint design, crash testing and much more!

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How would it feel to look in a mirror and see not your own reflection but instead how you would look as the opposite sex? You can explore this strange alternate reality at this year's Royal Society Summer Exhibition where scientists from Queen Mary, University of London and University College London will use mathematical wizardry to produce gender reversed images of faces.

Airport security staff have a daunting task. With impatient queues looming over them they need to search x-ray scans of cluttered suitcases for several items at once: knives, guns and bombs. How can we ease their task and make sure they don't miss a crucial item? To find out, scientists are trying to understand how we humans take in visual information. The humble triangle plays a crucial role in the experiments they perform.

To coincide with the 100th International Women's Day two new competitions to find the best young female mathematical minds in the UK and Europe have been launched.

When insects go foraging, they zoom off from their nest in complex zig-zag paths. How do they manage to find their way back home? And how do they manage to do so along a straight path? These questions are explored in an exhibit at the Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition, currently taking place at the Southbank Centre in London.

Water is essential for life on Earth, and it is a resource we all take for granted. Yet it has many surprising properties that have baffled scientists for centuries. Seemingly simple ideas such as how water freezes are not understood because of water's unique properties. Now scientists are utilising increased computer power and novel algorithms to accurately simulate the properties of water on the nanoscale, allowing complex structures of hundreds or thousands of molecules to be seen and understood.

People have been using gold particles dispersed in water — gold hydrosols — for medical purposes for over 1000 years. Recently, hydrosols containing gold nanoparticles have become particularly popular because they have exciting potential in cancer therapies, pregnancy tests and blood sugar monitoring.

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