The Nature Autumn '09 Debate — Science and the financial crisis
The 1980s saw the rise of the "rocket scientists" of finance — as engineers, mathematicians and physicists rejected careers in science and technology and instead opted to work for banks. What part did they play in the financial crisis? And what is the future of science in finance? Join leading experts from science and banking as they debate whether the crisis was the result of bankers and
regulators failing to grasp complicated, expert knowledge; and whether scientific knowledge — in particular fields such as complex systems, ecological economics and human behaviour — could help to ensure that economies are better understood and better regulated. The panel includes Tim Johnson, an RCUK Academic Fellow in Financial Mathematics, and author of the recent Plus article What is financial mathematics?
The debate will take place on the 21st of September at Kings Place in London, and you can book tickets, at £9.50 a head, on the Kings Place website.
A Gömböc is a strange thing. It looks like an egg with sharp edges, and when you put it down it starts wriggling and rolling around as if it were alive. Until quite recently, no-one knew whether Gömböcs even existed. Even now, Gábor Domokos, one of their discoverers, reckons that in some sense they barely exists at all. So what are Gömböcs and what makes them special?
Particle physics isn't what you expect to find at music festivals, but this year visitors to the Secret Garden Party were treated to just that — and more — thanks to Guerilla Science, an initiative committed to bringing science to music festivals. An unusual mission, perhaps, but the talks, chats and hands-on sessions managed to pack out the tents.
In our third online poll to find out what Plus readers would most like to know about the Universe, you told us that you'd like to learn about the secrets of dark matter and dark energy. We took the second part of the question — what is dark matter? — to John D. Barrow, renowned cosmologist and Professor of
Mathematical Sciences at the University of Cambridge. Here is his answer. (The first part of the question has been answered in Plus by Martin Rees.)
In my view, as the old stars die new will be born at all times whether or not the universe is expanding. The total matter in the universe must remain the same at all times and this includes dark energy and dark matter. Dark matter and dark energy could be transforming simultaneously into one another constantly maintaining the same dynamic ratio of dark matter to dark energy.
In my view, even the expanding universe, the fading away of old stars will result in the creation of new stars and therefore new galaxies. So there will NEVER be the so-called death of the universe whether or not the universe is expanding, contracting or static.
The numbers of students taking AS and A level Mathematics and Further Mathematics qualifications have increased very significantly this year. A level Mathematics numbers are up from 64593 to 72475, a 12% increase, while A level Further Mathematics numbers are up from 9091 to 10473, a 15% increase. The Further Mathematics increases are the highest of any mainstream A level subject.
There appear to be much larger increases at AS level, with AS Mathematics numbers up from 84613 to 103312, a 22% increase, and AS Further Mathematics numbers up from 8945 to 13164, a 47% increase. However, it is not entirely certain that these figures can be taken at face value, due to changes in the advice regarding when candidates should apply for certification.
The results come at a time when A-level mathematics has been widely discussed in the news, with controversy over plans to introduce a new A-level in Use of Mathematics as well as calls to award more school league table points for "harder" subjects such as mathematics and physics.
Chris Budd, Education Secretary at the London Mathematical Society said, "We have been concerned at the recent decline in the number of candidates taking A-level mathematics and are now delighted that the subject is again attracting healthy levels of interest. Many of these candidates will go on to study mathematically-rich subjects at university, but many
others will find their mathematics useful whatever they go on to study or in their working lives. " Duncan Lawson of the Higher Education Service Area at the Institute of Mathematics and Its Applications said, "The continued growth in success at A-level mathematics is fantastic news for the future of the subject in the UK. It is also good news for the country
as a mathematically well-qualified workforce is essential for our international economic competitiveness. "
The news has also been welcomed by other organisations concerned with maths education in schools, including the Advisory Committee on Mathematics Education (ACME), the National Centre for Excellence in the Teaching of Mathematics (NCETM), and the Engineering Council UK. Particular
praise has been heaped on the Further Mathematics Network (now replaced and extended by the Further Mathematics Support Programme), which for the last four years has provided tuition to students who could not access Further Mathematics tuition in their own schools and colleges. "The strong growth in numbers taking both these subjects is a tribute to
the work of the Further Mathematics Network and others who are working to increase the popularity of Mathematics," said John Holman, Director of the National Science Learning Centre and National STEM Director.
The Further Mathematics Network was launched four years ago, because many students had been missing out on the opportunity to take Further Maths at A level. This was worrying, since a high level of mathematics is a pre-requisite for many degree subjects. "Further Mathematics is widely recognised by university departments in the sciences, engineering, computing and mathematics, the so called
'STEM' subjects, as one of the most demanding and useful AS/A level subjects," said Charlie Stripp, Programme Leader of the Further Mathematics Support Programme. "These increased numbers will result in more students being well-prepared to make the transition to university in these vital subject areas. Taking Further Maths is a great way for students to show they have that something extra."
Fifty years ago, C.P. Snow claimed there were 'two cultures', sciences and the humanities, with an unbridgeable gulf between them.The idea sparked widespread controversy, which has continued ever since.
This debate will be revisited in the event Culture clash: The 'two cultures' 50 years on, part of the British Science Festival at the University of Surrey (Guildford). The speakers, Prof Robert Bud from the Science Museum, Dr Red Nield, editor of
Geoscientist magazine, and Prof Raymond Tallis from the University of Manchester, will take a critical look at Snow's notorious idea and its enduring appeal. Have the two cultures moved any closer? And what do they imply for the larger questions he raised about education, economic
development, and global inequality?