Welcome to the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications (IMA) blog. The IMA is the UK's learned and professional society for mathematics and its applications. We promote mathematics research, education and careers, and the use of mathematics in business, industry and commerce. Among our activities we produce academic journals, organise conferences and engage with government.

In this blog we will publish mathematical articles and news to reflect the interests of our members who come from a multiplicity of different organisations including university academics, industrial mathematicians, financiers, school teachers, scientists, civil servants etc.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Turing centenary : exhibitions and petitions

As a mathematician and a Mancunian, I am honour-bound to think that Alan Turing is great.  But when I visited Alan Turing and Life’s Enigma at Manchester Museum, what most impressed me about the man was not that he developed the encoding scheme for one of the first programmable computers, it was that as soon as he had access to it he was doing some really clever mathematical modelling, looking for a link between reaction-diffusion equations and morphogenesis.  As someone who does mathematical modelling, with computers, for a living, I was amazed to see the birth of my profession displayed in printouts with notes scribbled on them.  The exhibition also showed Turing’s papers on the subject and the cards he got from academics around the world, requesting that he send them a copy.  I didn’t realise that’s what people did at the time.  I guess that was the best way before Turing’s ideas about machines that compute slowly revolutionised the world.
The exhibition is part of the celebrations of the centenary of Turing’s birth.  This year also sees two petitions to get him remembered, one on the ten pound note and the other on the fourth plinth of Trafalgar Square.
The fourth plinth idea sounds brilliant.  By putting Turing in the square with Nelson, the nation can show its gratitude for a very different type of war hero.  But the brilliant idea looks doomed to failure.  In the 1990s a commission convened by the RSA recommended that the plinth be used for the temporary display of artworks.  However, there may be a way to do something.  In 2008 Terry Smith sought to get a permanent statue of Air Chief Marshal Sir Keith Park erected on the plinth.  This did not happen but a temporary statue was erected on the plinth in Autumn 2009 (although some people didn’t appreciate it).  Perhaps a temporary statue is all we can hope for on this occasion too, but that is worth signing the petition for.
Turing on the tenner looks a lot more hopeful.  The current Bank of England £10 note is in series E, whereas the £20 and £50 notes are in series F.  The Bank must consider a series-F tenner at some point so getting Turing on there makes sense.  But what to depict?  Behind the current image of Darwin is a depiction of the voyage of the Beagle.  While I would love morphogenesis to appear on the tenner I know what everyone will say: It must depict the cracking of the Enigma.  This may be inevitable but I have a further suggestion.  The Adam Smith £20 note shows a seemingly innocuous observation on the manufacture of pins but this telling detail can be extrapolated to explain the Wealth of Nations.  Similarly, one idea of Turing's can be extrapolated to explain many of his others, and so many aspects of the modern world, from computers to the Allied victory in World War II.  The £10 note should depict the Turing Machine!

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Introducing the New Early Career Mathematicians' Committee for the Year 2012/13

We are pleased to announce that, following the recent call for nominations and elections, the new Early-Career Mathematicians (ECM) Committee for the year 2012/13 is now in place.

As we move forward with the new committee, we would like to thank our retiring committee members Ellis Cresswell, Caitlin Jones, Ravi Gajria and Millan Bel for their services to the IMA over the last year. We would like to add a special thanks to our youngest committee member, Millan, who did a sterling job in upgrading and managing our FaceBook group last year, and we wish him all the very best as he goes on to study at university this year.

We would also like to say a special thank you to all the other candidates who put themselves forward for election this year, and to all of our ECM group members who voted in the elections. It was great to have the support and engagement from the wider ECM group, and we look forward to your continuing active participation in IMA, and especially ECM group activities.

If you have any ideas about new activities we could organise, and/or if there is anything the IMA or the ECM group could do for you, please do get in touch via our dedicated e-mail address ecm@ima.org.uk, our FaceBook group or our LinkedIn group or via the IMA Twitter account. Alternatively, you can also contact any member of the new committee directly.

The new ECM Committee consists of:

Chair: Stephen Lee CMath MIMA
Vice Chair and Chair-Designate: Sharon Evans MIMA
Conference Leaders: Peter Rowlett MIMA & Lindsay-Marie Armstrong AMIMA
Conference Leader-Designate: Jacqueline Bishop AMIMA
Promotion Leader: Sara Owen AMIMA
Engagement Leader: Richard Crawford CMath MIMA
Immediate Past Chair: M Benjamin Dias CMath FIMA CSci

You can find more information on each member on the IMA website.



(NB. The majority of this text is extracted from a forthcoming article in Mathematics Today, written by Ben Dias.) 

Monday, 2 July 2012

There is some interest at the moment about the connection between maths and puzzles and games and whether they can be used to support the teaching of mathematics (MSOR, 2011).

The Mathematics department at the University of Greenwich started a Maths Arcade in September 2010. This provides an opportunity for maths students to play various strategy games, test their ability with a weekly maths puzzle competition as well as get help working through tutorial sheets. The aim of the Arcade is to stretch the most able students whilst providing somewhere for students to get support from staff and their peers and to meet informally to chat about current mathematical research.

Thanks to HE STEM funding, several more Maths Arcades are now in place at various universities around the country including Manchester, Leicester, Sheffield Hallam and Bath.

To find out more about the project and how to start your own Maths Arcade read the start-up guide that is now available on the IMA website. A booklet containing articles from each of the Maths Arcades will be published soon by MSOR and will also be available from the IMA website.

If you are interested in this topic you may want to come to the next ECM conference which is taking place on Saturday 24th November at the University of Greenwich as the morning session will have a focus on puzzles and games and how they can be used to develop strategic thinking. Also take a moment to listen to Ian Stewart talking to Peter Rowlett about this topic on episode 101 of the Math/Maths podcast (starts at about the 19th minute) .