Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Maths in the city

Outreach is an incredibly important part of a researcher's job. Many mathematicians are funded through research councils that rely on tax payer money, so we really should be able to justify the work that we do. One project set up to do just that is Maths in the City. WCMB members, Dr Thomas Woolley and Paul Taylor, were recently filmed demonstrating the tour. Here, Paul recounts the experience.

The close proximity of London is one of the perks of living in Oxford. Residents trek to the capital for a wide range of reasons, but it's probably safe to say that Thomas and I were the only people making the journey on Thursday 21st August to run a mathematical walking tour.

Maths in the City tours are just one of the activities run by the Mathemagicians, an outreach group based in Oxford and championed by Professor Marcus du Sautoy, the Simonyi Professor for the Public Understanding of Science. They can be especially fun to run because the tour groups are so varied. For example, we have had the privilege of meeting and guiding many national and international school groups, undergraduates, companies as well as the general public. Essentially, anyone who wants a glimpse of London from a mathematician's perspective is welcome on our tours.

The project caught the attention of London Live, who asked if they could film a tour. The edited footage was broadcast as a segment of "Not the One Show", and can still be seen online.

For anyone curious about the snippets of activities shown in the video, the opening shot is a live-action demonstration of the famous Bridges of Koenigsberg problem. The slinky, and the swinging weights, are being used to explain why the Millennium Bridge swayed so alarmingly when first constructed. The full tour includes much more, such as the topology of the Tube, and the shapes of the domes of St Paul's Cathedral (yes, 'domes': there are actually three, but one is hidden...) Full details of all the activities are available on the Maths in the City website.

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