Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Marcus du Soutoy

I enjoyed Marcus last night. Few mathematics professors in my experience wear lime green trousers, pink velour trackie tops and yellow T-shirts with buzz cut, possibly bleached, hair. Weird but cool. Good communicator.

He gave a brilliant, one hour, illustrated lecture which should leave the few children who were there fascinated by numbers for the rest of their lives. Advice on choosing lottery numbers so you don't share the winnings, why footballs spin rapidly as they slow, number series, primes and movie clips.

'Is mathematics creativity or discovery,' someone asked. Good question, said Marcus.

Key message for me, 'Are you sure you're asking the right questions?' When maths gets complicated, mathematicians try to make sure they are asking the right questions. It enabled them to predict how the rarity of prime numbers expands (they get rarer the larger the number). You can say how many there will be without yet knowing a formula for finding the next one. I might not have put that right, not being a mathematician. There are prizes for finding big prime numbers. That's how hard it is, but you can programme your computer to do it during its down time.

I will try to go to more of this festival next year. The ticket cost £6.

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