Category Archives: mathematics and …

how our discipline relates to other things

Simon Norton

Simon Norton died last week. I got the news yesterday. I have written about Simon here before, after reading Alexander Masters’ biography. I have no intention of rehearsing Simon’s eccentricities. But he had an extraordinary talent and insight into mathematics, … Continue reading

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Wiles and Langlands

One of the best things that pops regularly into my pigeonhole is the European Mathematical Society Newsletter. The current issue, number 104, is particularly rich in interesting articles. For example, there is the transcript of a talk by Christian Krattenthaler … Continue reading

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Data science and statistics

Words change their meanings. Once “biometrics” referred to the use of statistics in studying biological systems such as agriculture (as opposed to, say, “technometrics”): now only one item on the Google top ten refers to the International Biometric Society, so … Continue reading

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I can’t resist passing on this, from last week’s Big Issue. Actress Elaine Cassidy likes knitting. She says, I love maths, and knitting is just maths, really. Now mathematicians have thought about weaving, but not (as far as I know) … Continue reading

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Mathematics, poetry and beauty

Comparing mathematics with poetry is an infinitely rich game. For every opinion you express, there is an equally valid counter-opinion. Contrasted to Hilbert’s dismissal of a student who had left mathematics for poetry, “I always thought he didn’t have enough … Continue reading

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Ramon Llull

Last Saturday the Guardian had a review of The Serpent Papers by Jessica Cornwell (granddaughter of John Le Carré). Set in Barcelona and Mallorca, the book is a murder mystery and more; its presiding genius is Ramon Llull, the mediaeval … Continue reading

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OuLiPo, or Ouvroir de Littérature Potentielle (which they translate as “Charity bazaar of potential literature”) were a collection of writers I knew little about until yesterday. I knew a couple of things: Martin Gardner wrote about them, mentioning among other … Continue reading

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Dark thoughts

Last night, a concert in the Spitalfields Music Winter Festival, entitled “This year’s midnight”, given by the viol group Fretwork and the mezzo-soprano Clare Wilkinson, with readings by the actor Simon Callow. The title is taken from a poem “A … Continue reading

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Mathematical metaphor

Last week, the book Fashionable Nonsense by Alan Sokal and Jean Bricmont emerged from its hiding place under the sofa. So I browsed a couple of chapters. In the book, the authors take various sociologists, literary theorists, psychoanalysts, and others, … Continue reading

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Open access and metrics: the Ball committee report

I mentioned this report in an earlier post; I am grateful to John Ball for directing me to the report on the web (here; the press release is here). The overall conclusions are clear. The ICSU goals for open access … Continue reading

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