Maths is not always the best choice of topic to attract large audiences but 180 people filled the lecture theatre (twice!) for ICMS’ public lectures last night. These events were the centre piece of our contribution to the 21st Edinburgh International Science Festival and we were thrilled to be able to share our passion for maths with so many people.
Two very different speakers demonstrated their applications of maths to the “entertainment industry” much to the delight of the crowd.
Allen Knutson, The Juggling Mathematician (left), described what has become a standard way of notating juggling tricks and how it can be used to explore new possibilities in his art, interspersed with dazzling displays of dexterity (in both hand and footwork!). Among other things, he showed us the infamous “baby juggling” trick, substituting a shoe as no babies volunteered from the audience. The trick involves juggling with standard balls and one awkwardly shaped object. Using the notation it is easy to work out where to insert the object to make the routine work easily and with comic effect.
David Baraff, Senior Animation Scientist at Pixar (below left) followed Allen with an insight into the mathematical models that underlie such captivating films as Monsters Inc and Ratatouille. David’s speciality is realistically simulating the movement of hair and cloth. He and his team do this so well that we often take for granted the attention to detail in these animations. However every fold in every costume in every frame has to be described by David’s models – no wonder he won an Academy Award for it!
David also gave a short introduction to a screening of Ratatouille earlier that day at Filmhouse Cinema and was interviewed on Forth 2 in the morning.
For the slides from the Juggling Mathematician talks, background links about Pixar animation and more information about all ICMS events at the 2009 Science Festival see the page on our website (links are in the sidebar).