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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2012, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Article Type: News, conferences and technical reports From: Kybernetes, Volume 41, Issue 9
Mathematics 2012 – Institute of Mathematics and Its Applications (IMA), London, UK, March 2012
This conference continues to be a much sort after event which endeavours to publicise the role of the IMA and mathematics and its applications in the UK and globally. It remains highly relevant in the present day and a timely reminder of the importance of the subject in a range of widely differing applications. No interdisciplinary project particularly in cybernetics, systems or management sciences can ignore it. Hence, perhaps the increased activity within the UK government departments and the IMA to publicise mathematics in schools, and universities is of such great importance in business and industry.
The Kybernetes representative at the event was Professor Brian Rudall, who is a founder fellow and a chartered mathematician of the IMA.
The conference opened with a short address by Robert Mackay, the IMA President, which was immediately followed by a talk by Professor James Moffet of the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dsti) on “The impact of mathematics on Defence Policy”. The relevance of this subject in the UK and worldwide was soon put into perspective. He showed how mathematics took its place in planning strategic defence and security, the policy decisions that had to be made and the laboratory’s key customers. Although participants appreciated the need for such programmes to be executed by countries at the present time, it was the second lecture by Dr Daniel Clarke from the Department of Statistics at Oxford University, UK, who commanded the most interest and indeed the personal involvement of his listeners.
He spoke about “Ending poverty: how acturial mathematics can help”. He works at the Centre for the Study of African Economies (CSAE) and with the Poor Unit and Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery and the Food Policy Research Institutes Markets. He told us about risks, particularly in agriculture. The mathematics of actuarial science plays an essential part, very much so in guaging and insuring risks.
Being poor, he said, is risky and insurance is an answer to risk. He demonstrated how randomisation devices for games can be utilised. He was one of the architects of the acturial design and ratemaking methodology for India’s government where apparently two thirds of the population rely on agriculture. Dr Jozsef Baranyi of the Institute of Food Research, Norwich, UK, followed when he discussed the mathematical modelling of microbial responses to food environments. In this context the “Baranyi model” is well-known in the literature (Baranyi and Roberts, 1993).
All the presentations were selected with the theme of mathematical usage being predominant. For example, Peter Benton of the Office for National Statistics looked at “The future of the Census”. He had an active role in the 2011 UK Census and pointed out the key mathematical challenges considering the methods used and its evaluation as a mathematical exercise, the statistical methods used, as well as the programme management.
During the event other outstanding addresses were given including Professor Chris Linton’s “Surface Waves” which went into the details of the mathematics needed to analyse surface waves. Dr Linton’s research focuses on the mathematical aspects of wave diffraction theory. Applications in acoustics, water waves, elasticity, electromagnetism and quantum mechanics were also studied.
It was emphasised throughout the event that the presentations arranged were but some of those that could be attended in the exhaustive programme of the IMA. Participants were reminded of the 13 conferences of 2012 which covered a range of mathematical applications and studies.
Apart from specific application orientated lectures this conference also discussed mathematics itself as a subject to be enjoyed and a subject in need of support, understanding and public attention. To this end the talk by Dr David Acheson of Jesus College, Oxford, UK, who asked the question “What’s the problem with Maths?” was an undoubted success. Giving examples from his latest book 1089 and All That=A Journey into Mathematics, Oxford University Press he showed that it was possible to bring some of the ideas and pleasures of real mathematics to the general public, and indeed, to the conference participants gathered at this event. We were also grateful to the IMA Director, David Youdan for making us aware of the HESTEM Programme and to Professor Robert Mackay, the IMA President for describing the IMA 2012 strategy.
This conference succeeded in giving its participants an opportunity once again to engage in useful discussions both in the conference hall as well as in the gardens of Mary Ward House, which is set in the heart of Bloomsbury, London.
2012 Christopher Zeeman Lecture – Royal Society, London, UK
Prior to the conference Mathematics 2012, Professor John Barrow gave the Christopher Zeeman Lecture at the Royal Society, Carlton House Terrace, London (21 March 2012). Its subject was “Maths, Sport, and the Olympics”.
Dr Barrow revealed:
[…] some of the many ways in which simple mathematics helps us understand and improve sporting performance. Running, throwing, cycling, jumping, and weightlifting are among the examples we will take a look at from a new perspective. Along the way we will also see how Usain Bolt can break his world 100 m record and investigate some odd scoring systems.
Before the lecture, Professor John Barrow was presented with the Christopher Zeeman award. This medal is awarded triennially to recognize and reward the contributions of mathematicians involved in promoting mathematics to the public, with a view to encouraging others by demonstrating that such activities are valued as part of the role and responsibilities of a mathematician. It is jointly awarded by the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications and the London Mathematical Society.