All the A-Level mathematicians spent an exciting afternoon at The Bristol Hippodrome on Thursday 25 November, taking part in the Inspiration Maths series of lectures. The three guest speakers the students heard from were engineer turned lecturer Paul Shepherd, self proclaimed YouTube global sensation Steve Mould and mathematician/singer Ben Sparks. Paul started off the show with his experience on working on engineering masterpieces such as the Millennium Dome and Arsenal Stadium, describing the modelling process required to find the most elegant, cost effective and low carbon solution to grand engineering projects.
Steve followed with a comedic description of three of his weird mathematical obsessions. His first was about his favourite shapes including the Reuleaux triangle, essentially a triangle with some of the same properties of a circle, namely that any two points side to side are of equal width. This type of shape can be seen in every day life in the 20p and 50p coins that we use- if you roll one of these between your fingers, they won’t get closer and further apart as you would expect, but actual stay the exact same distance apart. He also spoke about Mandelbrot’s use of fractals to show that the coastline of Britain is actually infinite in length by proving it can be two different lengths at the same time. He finished of by talking about his self discovered Mould Effect, essentially the incredible way a chain can ‘pour’ itself out of a container. This is certainly worth a watch on his YouTube channel.
Ben Sparks finished the show by basing his talk on Sting’s ‘Shape Of My Heart’. He spoke about the possible outcomes when playing card games, showing practically the use of the binomial formula. With the help of Louis and Mr Worthy in the audience he proved just how few people you need to quite quickly find a pair sharing a birthday. With just 23 people you get a better than 50% chance of two people sharing their birthday. He finished off by showing us the discovery of chaos by using the birth rate of rabbits as a model.
Overall it was a very enjoyable event and wonderful to see such practical uses of the mathematics we are learning in school!