Plus Blog

March 21, 2007
Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Students are falling in love with maths again

Figures recently released by the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) show that 10 per cent more applications were made this year for courses in the mathematical sciences than last year. This pushed mathematics in to the top 20 most popular courses at UK universities.

Sir David Wallace, chair of the Council for Mathematical Sciences, said, "This is not just great news for the mathematical sciences. It is also great news for the UK as a whole as we need mathematics graduates more than ever before. As a bedrock for our knowledge economy, mathematics is vital for scientific research and development, and for our economic and social well-being."

This year, by the closing date for applications to study in 2007, UCAS had received 33,790 applications for mathematics courses. This demonstrates a 10 per cent increase on this time last year and a massive 37 per cent increase since 2004.

Applications to the mathematical sciences dropped suddenly in 2000 following the introduction of AS-levels. The numbers have been steadily increasing ever since but are still not at the levels they were just ten years ago.

posted by Plus @ 5:07 PM


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March 21, 2007
Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Say hello to Plus!

As part of the Cambridge Science Festival, the Centre for Mathematical Sciences (home of Plus) is having an open day on Saturday 24 March.

You can come and meet some of the Cabridge mathematicians who work on everything from gravity and black holes to climate change, disease dynamics and how bacteria swim. There will be hands-on activities, demonstrations, computer models and displays share some of the wonders of mathematics and theoretical physics. And the Plus team will be there so come and say hello to us at the MMP stand!

When: Saturday 24th March 2007, 12.00 - 4.00 pm
Where: Centre for Mathematical Sciences, Clarkson Road, Cambridge
No booking required - drop in throughout the day. Limited on-site parking is available - the CMS car park is on Wilberforce Road, off Madingley Road. The Maths Cafe will be open from 12 noon until 3.30pm serving tea, coffee, soft drinks, sandwiches and snacks.

And while you there, why not catch one of these talks. No ticket is necessary, just turn up in good time to secure a seat.

CURVED SURFACES - Popular lecture by Prof Alan Beardon.

Every point of an orange can be in contact with a table top; why is the same not true of a banana? Why is it more difficult to wrap a football in paper than it is to wrap a box in paper? How do we represent the curved surface of the earth on a flat piece of paper? How do we navigate around the surface of the earth?

Saturday 24th March 2007, 12.15 - 1.15 pm

AVALANCHE! - Popular lecture by Dr Jim McElwaine

More than a million avalanches happen throughout the world every year. Most fall harmlessly, but the largest can destroy whole towns and kill thousands. This non-technical multimedia talk describes one mathematician's efforts to understand snow avalanches, from investigating disasters in the Japanese mountains to dropping half a million ping-pong balls down a ski jump.

Saturday 24th March 2007, 2.00 - 3.00 pm

posted by Plus @ 2:05 PM


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March 6, 2007
Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Euler on the radio

This year marks the 300th birthday of the legendary mathematician Leonhard Euler. Plus will be celebrating this with a series of articles, but if you want to give your eyes a rest and use your ears, then tune into BBC Radio Four's Material World on Thursday the 15th of March at 4.30pm. Half the program will be on Euler and will feature Plus authors Julian Havil and Robin Wilson. If you read this entry after the event, you can listen again on the BBC website.

posted by Plus @ 11:50 AM


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February 15, 2007
Thursday, February 15, 2007

Education Show, Birmingham NEC - come and say hello to the MMP team!

Come and meet staff from the Millennium Mathematics Project, the organisation behind Plus at the Education Show in Birmingham from March 22nd to the 24th. The MMP's stand is GG84 at the Birmingham NEC, so if you're visiting the show, come and say hello to Plus and the rest of the staff from the MMP.

posted by Plus @ 2:13 PM


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February 2, 2007
Friday, February 02, 2007

Cryptography challenge

Plus reported some time ago that the Secure Hash Algorithm SHA-1, on which the security of all electronic communication depends, came dangerously close to being cracked, thanks to the work of the Chinese mathematician Xiaoyun Wang (see The dangers of cracking hash).

Now the US National Institute of Standards and Technology is responding. This year it will launch a competition to find a new algorithm to replace SHA-1. Cryptographers sharpen your pencils!

posted by Plus @ 12:57 PM


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February 1, 2007
Thursday, February 01, 2007

Maths and science: Hugely important but poorly understood

A recent poll conducted in the US by Research!America showed that while US citizens feel that public understanding of maths and science is poor, they are well aware of its importance. The vast majority (85%) recognise that maths and science are very important, but over half (52%) feel that the US isn't performing as well as other nations in maths and science education. Maybe surprisingly, 87% rate being a scientist as one of the most prestigious careers, yet 75% can't name a living scientist. Sixty-four percent don't think average Americans are knowledgeable about science, and 76% think it is very important that young people are encouraged to pursue scientific careers, and that more opportunities for these careers are created.

Most people questioned felt that scientific advances in the medical and health sector were the most important to society, but many recognised that research in this area depended on maths (56%) and other maths based fields including computer science (62%), physics (58%) and engineering (49%).

A huge majority (97%) recognised that science research is important to the US economy and 94% also saw that it can create jobs and higher incomes. Global issues also scored highly with 67% seeing scientific research as very important in addressing global warming and 61% in eliminating poverty and hunger around the world.

And, interestingly for Plus, 70% wanted more media coverage of science and research.

"To address today's unprecedented opportunities in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics workforce, we must retool our education system to educate our young people in math and science more effectively and nurture the innate abilities of all young people, regardless of gender or race, to enter a STEM field of study," concluded Arden Bement, the director of the US National Science Foundation.

posted by Plus @ 12:19 PM


At 6:11 PM, Blogger Bill said...

"Maybe surprisingly, 87% rate being a scientist as one of the most prestigious careers..."
Maybe (not surprisingly) the crux of the problem lies in the fact that in the United States no one considers "being a teacher" is prestigious.

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