Category Archives: Public Events

Nomination News!

Yesterday we received some great news from our colleagues at Heriot-Watt Engage.  Our Communications Officer, Madeleine Shepherd has been shortlisted for the Principal’s Public Engagement Prize 2014.  This builds on our previous success in the field.  In 2012, ICMS won the Group Category of the same prize.  The award money funded our winter lecture series on the Mathematics of Planet Earth.

We’re looking forward to the announcement of the award on 18 June and wish Madeleine the best of luck!


Party Hard! at Edinburgh International Science Festival 2014

EISF_Corporate_Identity_RGB_72dpiOur local science festival returns from 5th to 20th April and ICMS is proud to have Dr Colva Roney-Dougal, Senior Lecturer in Pure Mathematics from the University of St Andrews to deliver Party Hard!, our Edinburgh International Science Festival lecture on 10th April 2014. Colva’s research concerns the development of fast methods to compute with billions of symmetries, in less time than it takes to fetch a coffee. As well as public lectures, her mathematics popularisation includes radio shows with Brian Cox and Robin Ince, and with Melvyn Bragg.

Party Hard! – the mathematics of connections, will investigate how many guests need to come to a party to guarantee at least five will know one another or at least five will be mutual strangers. She’ll also look at the many applications of the mathematics of connections; from friendship, through marriage to the spread of disease. Along the way Colva will show how infinity plays some very peculiar tricks and discover some unexpected links between mathematicians and Hollywood stars.

The talk will take place in The Red Lecture Theatre, Summerhall, Edinburgh on Thursday 10 April at 5.30pm. Tickets are £8 (concessions £4-£6) and can be booked through the Edinburgh International Science Festival website where you’ll also find venue details and a location map.

In addition, ICMS staff member, Madeleine Shepherd and Dr Julia Collins, Maths Outreach Officer at the University of Edinburgh have collaborated over the last year on Botanica Mathematica, a new textile art and mathematics project. Some readers might recall their talk about this project in December 2013. Their knitting and crochet pattern for Binary Bonsai trees has travelled the world via the internet. Crafters from the US, Europe and the UK have sent back a forest of little trees that make up the finished art work. There’s still time to join in if you want to knit a tree too – see the project blog for details. Botanica Mathematica will be on display as part of the Science at the HeArt of Things art trail, also at Summerhall so why not come early to Colva’s lecture and take in some science-based art too?

A Chaotic Afternoon with Ettiene Ghys – guest lecture and film event.

We’re really pleased to be hosting  A Chaotic Afternoon with Ettiene Ghys on Thursday 20 March.

Etienne Ghys is a distinguished French mathematician who is also interested in the popularization of mathematics, especially chaos theory.

The programme will have two parts:  a somewhat technical lecture, assuming that the audience knows what differential equations are, and a showing of a film on chaos theory produced by Ghys, which will be accessible to the layman.

Both parts of the afternoon, technical lecture (part1) and film/talk (part2), are open to the public and can be booked via the separate Eventbrite links (see below). If you wish to attend both parts please make 2 separate bookings.

1-3pm – Part 1:  A brief history of dynamics

According to Y. Ilyashenko, there are three main steps in the history of dynamical systems.

  1. Newton : Given a differential equation, find its solutions
  2. Poincaré : Given a differential equation, say something about its solutions
  3. Smale : A differential equation is NOT given : say something about its solutions!

The goal of Etienne Ghys, in this talk, is to explain this joke. This will be an opportunity to discuss some fundamental examples like periodic motions, quasi-periodic motions, Smale’s horseshoe and the famous Lorenz butterfly, paradigmatic of chaos. More importantly, he will try to describe some of the current conjectures. Unfortunately, one has to admit that this story, since Newton, is nothing more than a succession of conjectures by great mathematicians, shown to be wrong by their successors. Nevertheless, Ghys believes that we do understand the situation better than Newton!

For more information, see this article in English or in French:

Tickets for this lecture are available via Eventbrite

3-4pm – Tea/coffee break


4:00-5.30pm – Part 2: A brief cinematic history of dynamics for the layman

In 2013 Jos Leys, Aurélien Alvarez and Etienne Ghys produced a film on chaos theory, for the layman. Basically, this film tells the story of dynamics from Newton to current research, explained in an elementary way. The total length of the film is about two hours, so that it wouldn’t be reasonable to show it from A to Z. Instead, Etienne Ghys will show some extracts, to explain the ‘making of‘, and discuss it with the audience. The complete film can be downloaded here:

Tickets for this film/talk are available via Eventbrite

This event is a Scottish Topology Seminar
Organiser: Andrew Ranicki,
The Scottish Topology Seminar is supported by the Glasgow Mathematical Journal Trust.

Enthralled by mathematical magic!

Doors Open Day 2013 by ICMS News Photos
Doors Open Day 2013, a photo by ICMS News Photos on Flickr.

Our open day on 28 September was attended by around 200 people. We hope they were all as delighted as this young man being shown mathematical card tricks by Dr Julia Collins, Mathematics Engagement Officer at University of Edinburgh.

Other activities around the building included an arithmetical version of scrabble, short videos from the Mathematics of Planet Earth project, a textile art installation from Botanica Mathematica and puzzles and games such as a Penrose tiling puzzle shaped like chickens!

Click on the picture above to see more photos from the day on our Flickr account.

Dots and Holes at the Edinburgh International Science Festival

Next week ICMS will be the proverbial hive of activity!  As well as hosting the Mathematical Neuroscience 2011 workshop we have two public lectures as part of Edinburgh International Science Festival.

Robert Ghrist of the University of Pennsylvania will be in Edinburgh on Tuesday 12 April to deliver a Distinguished Lecture at the School of Informatics for the Scottish Topology Seminar of the School of Mathematics and to give a more general interest talk about the Mathematics of Holes as part of the Edinburgh International Science Festival.  His talk introduces `topology’ – the mathematical study of holes – and uses a century’s worth of holey innovations to explain why your cell phone drops calls, why your GPS plans erratic travel routes, and why you can’t find good, cheap, healthy fast-food.

Two days later, on Thursday 14 April, our own Scientific Director, Keith Ball, will be here to tell you about Counting Dots and Pick’s Theorem.  An interesting piece of recreational maths , Pick’s Theorem also provides an excellent illustration of how mathematicians think about research problems.

The formula calculates the area of certain polygons but it also captures the fundamental property of prime numbers that underlies the cryptographic systems used to protect financial transactions and the patterns produced by the children’s toy, Spirograph.

Both talks take place at 7pm in the main lecture theatre at 15 South College Street.  Tickets can be booked through the Festival’s box office using the following links:

We look forward to seeing you at one or both of them!

ICMS staff on BBC Radio Scotland

Yesterday’s Movie Café on BBC Radio Scotland included a review of the newly released Spanish film Fermat’s Room by ICMS Communications Officer Madeleine Shepherd.  The review took the form of a short interview which also covered the wider subject of maths in film.

The programme is currently available on the BBC listen again service and the interview is around thirty minutes into the programme.

Malaria, Mosquitos and Models


Malaria, Mosquitos and Models

ICMS and the Royal Society of Edinburgh present a public lecture on the epidemiology of malaria.

Professor Charles Godfray of Department of Zoology at University of Oxford will discuss worries that mosquitoes are developing insecticide resistance and look at control strategies, some involving mosquito pathogens, others novel genetic techniques. He will show how mathematical and computer modelling is used as a tool to explore which strategies may have the greatest impact in reducing disease.

The event takes place at 6pm on 17 June in the Royal Society of Edinburgh at 22 George Street, Edinburgh. Tickets are free but must be reserved in advance. Please telephone the ticket line on 0131 240 2780 or visit to reserve a ticket.

More information is available on the ICMS website.

(Image from used under a Creative Commons licence.)