Now, when the school gives you the opportunity to give up your Saturday for a set of maths lectures, you probably think “Oh. Great. That’s totally how I wanted to be spending my weekend. Still- I can’t really say no, can I?” However, maybe you should try it. In all seriousness, it’s a lot of fun.
If you ever get the opportunity, grab it. You get to hear inspirational talks given by masters in their fields and find out about areas of maths you didn’t even know existed.
For example, I found out about the Physics of Knots. Sounds a bit random, but it’s actually really cool. Even a simple knot, a string in a circle, is a type of knot, also known as the unknot. Two knots linked together is called a link, and two knots that aren’t linked is called (bet you can’t guess) an unlink! Also, the reason that smoke rings stay in the correct shape is because they are, in fact, knots, and the theory goes that a knot doesn’t want to change into another knot if possible. Now, a challenge. This was set to us and I thought I would give it to you as well. Take a mug or a labelled bottle or even a pair of glasses - in fact any object without any rotational symmetry. Now, keeping it flat, how many degrees do you need to turn it through before it reaches its original position? The answer is 360. The question is, can you think of any objects that needed to be rotated more than 360 degrees to return to their original position? I’ll give you the answer at the end.
The second lecture we went to was presented by a mathematician called Hannah Fry. Hannah fry has written a book called 'The Mathematics of Love' and is, in my opinion, one of the coolest mathematicians of our time (other than Ms Copin, obviously). During her lecture she gave us many little snippets of information in an engaging and often hilarious manner. She showed us how you could simulate the movement of a whole bird flock using a simple piece of coding where the “bird” just takes the average speed and direction of the bird’s neighbours. By making this slightly more complex you can simulate how a whole group of humans might act in a situation, for example the evacuation of a building. This can be used to create the safest exit routes for a building in case of fire (or, if you’re a slightly more creative programmer who wants to have some fun, how your “humans” would behave against a swinging arm of doom!)
Another little factoid we received was from Hannah Fry’s book. It was how women rated men and men rated women on a dating website. This was quite revealing and slightly shocking. Men’s ratings for women were pretty much as you would expect, with a bell-shaped curve and an average around 3. However, women rate men far harsher, with an extremely uneven distribution - the modal value being 2 and hardly any 5s being given out. I think this is just because boys are not as good as girls.
Overall, these two lectures were exceptional and I wish I could’ve gone to more.
Oh, and before I forget- the answer to the challenge. There are a few different objects that need more than 360 degrees, but the most obvious one is your hand. Ok, hold out your hand in front of you, palm upwards like you are holding a plate. Now, turn it under your arm, then over, always keeping your hand facing upwards. See? You have to perform two full turns.
That’s everything really. I hope that this has gotten you enthused to go watch some lectures of your own. If it has, then you can find Hannah Fry on TED talks. They cover loads of topics and there will definitely be something for everyone to enjoy.