Statistics and the Pope

Dr Julian Sander, Dr. Luciana Dalla Valle  and collaborators have written an interesting article about the life expectancy of the Pope.  The current Pope, jokingly announced  that he  expected to live another two or three years.

In their article, the authors use Bayesian statistics with the data from the life spans of previous Popes, to show that the current Pope will probably live much longer than a few years.

The paper was discussed on a radio show on the BBC.




Film about mathematical thinking

On the 21st April, the film Thinking Space directed and produced by Heidi Morstang  , will be shown at Plymouth University.

The 60 minute documentary film features nine UK-based mathematicians offering insights into their mathematical thinking across a broad range of mathematical research fields.

You can get details from the whats on page at the University.

The film will be introduced by Professor Stephen Huggett from the CMS at Plymouth University. The film maker  Heidi Morstang will be also be at the screening.

Second edition of book on Coastal and Marine Processes

Plymouth is known as the Ocean city. The sea permeates almost every aspect of the city, including the University of course. It is important to understand the sea’s influence on the coast (as anyone who has taken the train from Plymouth to Exeter can testify). What better way to understand the sea, than to use mathematics.

On April 11th, the extensively revised second edition of the book Modelling Coastal and Marine Processes, written by Prof. Philip Dyke will be published. The update now includes pointers to open source software, and details developments in new numerical methods, beyond the trusty finite difference methods.


Walking on custard at the Astonishing Science Weekend in Butlins

Tim Reis and Ana Paula Palacois will be walking on custard at the Astonishing Science Weekend in Butlins (Bognor) from 15th-17th April.

You can get some idea of what will happen at the Astonishing Science Weekend, from the video below.

Last year Tim and Ana Paula did a similar demonstration at Butlins Minehead, which had about 4000 visitors. They were helped out by final year students: Lauren Archer and Sophie Bennett.

Lauren Archer walking on custard at Butlins Minehead.

The video below shows a dynamic demonstration of walking on custard.

Online magazine about mathematics

We were recently sent an online magazine about mathematics called Chalkdust.   The magazine seems largely written by students at UCL. Some of the articles we liked were:

  • An article about using analog computers to solve differential equations. When I worked at the National Nuclear Corporation, during the summer vacation, when I was an undergraduate student, one of the staff members kept complaining that the analog computers they use to use to simulate nuclear reactors were much better than the digital computers.
  • An interesting article about fractional calculus 
  • There is an informative interview with Prof Ian Stewart. I didn’t know he had written a book with Terry Pratchett — of disc world fame.

There are also competitions and puzzles.

Mentoring at mathematical modelling camp

Mathematics is required for many industrial applications. A recent report estimates that Mathematical Sciences is worth £208bn to the economy  and 10% of jobs. So it is important for Mathematicians to engage with industry.

Last week, Tim Reis was a mentor at a graduate mathematical modelling camp,  hosted at the Mathematical Institute, Oxford. It was was a week long event for postgrads designed to encouraging their modelling skills, with a particular emphasis on solving problems from industry. The camp was organized by EPSRC-sponsored CTD in Industrial-Focussed Mathematical Modelling   and the IMA

Tim’s group won the prize awarded by  the IMA.

Tim in Oxford