RSS seminar: statistics making an impact

John Pullinger, the president of the Royal Statistical Society, will be giving a seminar in the Department on Friday 31 January. He has a lengthy career in the civil service as a statistician and currently works at the House of Commons, so it should be an interesting insight into the use of statistics in and by government! Continue reading

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Quotation for the new year

For anyone who is currently contemplating their January exam revision through bleary eyes and wondering what the point of their maths degree was supposed to be, here’s a possible answer from the lawyer and philosopher Francis Bacon:

In the mathematics I can report no deficience, except it be that men do not sufficiently understand this excellent use of the pure mathematics, in that they do remedy and cure many defects in the wit and faculties intellectual.  For if the wit be too dull, they sharpen it; if too wandering, they fix it; if too inherent in the sense, they abstract it.  So that as tennis is a game of no use in itself, but of great use in respect it maketh a quick eye and a body ready to put itself into all postures, so in the mathematics that use which is collateral and intervenient is no less worthy than that which is principal and intended.

[The Advancement of Learning, 1605, section VIII(2)]

Happy New Year! Have fun, but I hope your “wit and faculties intellectual” are thoroughly remedied by the time you return to campus…


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Links: more on the mathematics of music

For those of you who read our earlier article on the mathematics behind music and want to know more, here are a couple of links that might well interest you.

Amazingly mathematical music is an online article from Washington University in St Louis, which explores some of the mathematical patterns to be found in both musical harmonies and rhythms. It’s well illustrated (if that’s the word) with sound clips including the infamous perpetually ascending stairs illusion, barbershop choruses and Tuvan throat singing — well worth checking out! It’s accompanied by a podcast interview with David Wright, who is both the chair of the Mathematics Department at Washington University and a very successful a capella choir director.

Hat tip (and jazz hand) to the member of Edinburgh’s Rolling Hills Chorus who supplied the link!


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More statistics talks in Glasgow

Here’s another date for your diaries: on Tuesday 17 December there will be a public meeting of the Glasgow Local Group of the Royal Statistical Society, including a seminar on “Public Engagement: Some Perspectives from Statistics and Public Health”. The meeting is open to all, and you’ll get to hear about the Inequalities in Mortality Mountain Plot Jigsaw among other enticing topics… There are more details here. (Like the recently advertised event at the University of Glasgow, this meeting is part of the International Year of Statistics 2013.)


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Statistics talks in Glasgow

Over the next month or so, our longstanding rivals friends in the Maths and Stats department at the University of Glasgow will be hosting three public lectures in celebration of the International Year of Statistics. The lectures are free, but you will need to register in advance using the links below. Continue reading

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Link for the week(ish): Numberphile

The Link for the Week hasn’t been very active recently, but here’s something to make up for the drought. The Numberphile website contains dozens of short videos on mathematical topics — most of them accessible without a lot of background knowledge, but some of them pointing towards much deeper questions in mathematics and how we use or abuse it. Definitely a much better way to waste time on Youtube than watching humorous cat videos!


PS: Thank you to Vincent Keenan (formerly of Strathclyde and now of Heriot-Watt) for the tip-off!

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Fluid dynamics: taking the p***

I’m grateful to Dr Phil Knight for passing on the following piece of unconventional research (he says “I saw this and thought of you”). Researchers at Georgia Institute of Technology have investigated the puzzling question of why different mammals, ranging from mice to elephants, seem to take very similar lengths of time to empty their bladders. Their preprint is available on the arXiv; for full details including the mathematical analysis, you’ll have to refer to the accompanying video, under “ancillary files”. It boils down to Bernoulli’s theorem plus a nice little scaling argument. Continue reading

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