**Mathematics **

**Beauty** There
is a beauty to mathematics in two senses of the word. There is the obvious visual beauty of
fractals. The wallpaper to this page was
generated from the equation .
But there is also the beauty of an
elegant mathematical proof. I am tempted
to show a few, but mathematicians know them and most non mathematicians would
not take the time to see their beauty.
To them I would only say ask any mathematician to show that the root of
2 is irrational, or there is an infinite number of primes, or that there are
‘more’ points between 0 and one than there are integers (1,2,3,4, ). Of course they are both infinite, but
one infinity is ‘bigger’ than the other!

**Applicability** I can imagine some people reading the last sentence
and mutter something like “its like arguing about how many angels can stand on
the point of a needle”, or less politely “sad gits”. Before anyone dismisses mathematics so
lightly they should consider this. As
part of widening participation we visit schools to encourage them to think
about taking up a degree in mathematics.
We spend about half an hour asking them to list a subject that does ** not** use mathematics. When we have a reasonable sized list, we
take each item in turn and give examples of mathematics from each. For example if they say ‘Art’ we can point
out, the beauty of abstract fractals, the use of perspectives and focal points
in many pictures, and the whole industry that is generated around computer
graphics. If they say ‘Music’ we can
point ort that the scales are mathematical, the sounds of an instrument can
only be objectively described using the language of mathematics, we could talk
about Fourier Analysis and so on. That
is even before we get on to the finance of an orchestra, mathematics of crowd
behaviour and so on. Mathematics is even
creeping into sociology. Robert
Axelrod’s work on the iterated prisoner’s dilemma and human cooperation is
fascinating. I, myself, have written a
mathematical essay on corruption. Only once were we stumped by the school
students. One asked us to show the
mathematics of wine tasting. At that
time we could not think of an answer!

**Popularising** Our group at
Sheffield Hallam University has launched a number of initiatives to popularise
mathematics. We had a successful day
conference called “One that went well.” We invited teachers to bring one lesson plan
on one mathematical topic the students liked.
Each teacher gave a 10 minute talk on the subject, the approach, the
materials used, and why they think it went well. Each teacher brought one good lesson and
walked away with many.It is a good idea but needed support to allow teachers to
participate. Sadly the support was not
forthcoming. We like many other
university groups give master classes.
Our most successful initiative is Popmaths.

**Personal Interests**
For the last few years I have been teaching Game theory, (what is the best
strategy to take a penalty, and much much more), Genetic Algorithms (There is a
creationist website called evolutionofideas. com. They argue that you cannot get order by
random changes and selection. Lesson one
of a Genetic Algorithm course shows that they are wrong. They believe God designed their magnificent
brains. It is a shame they don’t use
them.) I also teach about Cellular Automata.