My day with the London Mathematical Society

The London Mathematical Society launched their 150th anniversary event last Friday, and Public-i had the pleasure of webcasting the day’s affairs. It’s been many months of hard work leading up to this – we had been taking our time building the microsite, writing up equipment lists, and ensuring everything would be in place for the big day.

I made my way to Goldsmiths’ Hall in the heart of London on Friday morning feeling excited and overwhelmed. First of all, I must admit I am no mathematics whiz. The last course I took was several years ago and I hadn’t brushed up on my algebra before getting on the train that day. I soon realized it would be impossible to catch up – the minds present at the LMS 150th Birthday were truly something else.

The LMS chose a wonderful venue for hosting the anniversary, a grand hall with several chandeliers hanging overhead, golden fixtures and beautifully ornate details surrounding us. There were enough chairs to seat the 300 in attendance, from students to professors, who made their way into the room for a 2 o’clock start time.

Goldsmith Hall

Maggie Philbin opened the event, called Mathematics: Unlocking Worlds, and made sure to address those watching at home. It was great to see such a keen interest on twitter, the hashtag #LMS150 had a great following, just what we like to see on the day of a big event!

I was excited to see that presenters of the day ranged from mathematicians to a screenwriter and another from a visual effects Company. I was very curious as to how these seemingly non maths related professions could possibly be intertwined with the mathematics world.

Steve Thompson, a screenwriter for Dr. Who and Sherlock, explained how he uses a mathematical concept to play with for each Dr. Who script he writes. Rob Pieké, Research Lead at Moving Picture Company, told the audience about the simulation of smoke, water and fire in films, and how this all comes back to mathematics. Professor Andrew Blake, Head of Microsoft Research, explained the mathematics behind electronics like the Xbox Kinect.

Why is this important? As Terry Lyons, the President of the LMS, said, they want to show that there is mathematics everywhere for everyone. Although you may not see it outright, there are hundreds of nods to maths in many places, including places where you may not expect it at all.

I learned much more from the day than initially expected, and I was delighted to find that this event was not only a great learning experience, but quite fascinating as well. If anyone ever tells you mathematics is boring, don’t believe them!

If you missed the live webcast, make sure you watch the archive, available here.


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