A Random Walk through Mathematics and Computing Science
A series of public lectures organised by Computing Science and Mathematics, University of Stirling - (Spring 2016)
The following lectures were given in 2016.
Thursday evenings at 7pm, for approximately an hour.
Venue: Lecture Theatre B4
Cottrell Building, University of Stirling
All welcome. No need to book.
Counting on the fingers of one hand. Donald Smith
Our counting system is based on the number 10, but there is no mathematical reason for that: it is purely a fluke of biology. Other cultures over time have used other systems, however. We shall look at some of these and also explore the development of different types of number, from simple counting up to so-called 'imaginary' numbers. Do such things really 'exist'?
Weighing up the options: finding the right solution when lots of things matter. Dr Sandy Brownlee
We can all think of a machine or a process that we'd like to be faster, cheaper, greener or otherwise better. Optimisation is the process of tuning something so that some aspect of it is made as big or small as possible. But what do we do when more than one thing is important? For example, we can make a car fast, comfortable or cheap, but probably not all together. There are many designs that strike different balances between these goals. Finding this trade-off between goals or "objectives" is known as multi-objective optimisation (MOO). This talk will introduce MOO and how it can be done automatically by computers intelligently searching through vast numbers of possibilities. I'll give examples based on my research in optimising buildings to be cheap to build, comfortable and energy-efficient, and show how MOO can be a huge help to designers.
Zero: the history of an unappreciated number. Dr Anthony O'Hare
I will outline the history of zero, from its invention by the Babylonians to being banned by the Greeks, worshipped by the Hindus and used by the Christian church to fend off heretics. Zero has had a turbulent and sometimes bloody history that causes trouble for us today. (Remember the millennium bug?) This mysterious number has frustrated the thinking of the most celebrated philosophers throughout the centuries, shaking the foundations of philosophy, science, religion and mathematics, and I hope to explain the problems (and usefulness) of this extraordinary and often overlooked number.
The incredible shrinking computer: computer hardware from relays to 14 nanometre
transistors. Prof Leslie Smith
Digital computer technology has changed enormously in the three quarters of a century since these machines were first developed. From electromechanical devices developed in Germany, the UK and USA, to electronic devices, initially using valves and later transistors, reducing the size and power consumption have often been just as important as increasing the speed and memory. The talk will look at the technologies that have been used and at how these have impacted on the size, cost, speed and power of digital computers.
Real life games and how to win them. Prof Rachel Norman
Game theory is the study of mathematical models of interactions between individuals, their possible strategies or behaviours and the outcomes of those strategies. Game theory has many applications in real life including in economics, evolution, psychology and Christmas present buying. In this talk I will look at how we can represent a game mathematically and how we solve that game in the context of some real life examples.
Memories are made of this: how the brain stores and recalls information. Prof Bruce Graham
Remembering our experiences is fundamental to our daily lives and our interactions with the world around us. But our memories are notoriously unreliable: how often have you had the experience of meeting someone you haven't seen in a while and you just cannot quite remember their name - it is on the tip of your tongue but... In this talk we will explore the operation of a computational model of "associative" memory that we think mimics the way memories are stored and recalled in the brain. We will see how it works and how it can create those "tip of the tongue" moments. The model also shows us how memory deteriorates due to the pathologies of Alzheimer's and other diseases that lead to dementia and how remarkably robust our memory systems can be in the face of such diseases.
e – a Cinderella in the family of numbers. Prof Adam Kleczkowski
Some numbers in Mathematics are so important that mathematicians have given them special names. While those like 0, 1 or π are well known, there are others like i or e that are as important but perhaps have been given less attention. In this talk I will trace the history and some applications of e, the base of natural logarithms, from its invention by Napier and naming by Euler, to Google's Initial Public Offering. We will encounter fascinating individuals like Johannes Kepler, John Napier, Leonhard Euler and Jacob Bernoulli, and wide-ranging applications from calculus to climbing Munros, and even searching for a wife. While e might not be so widely known, its contribution to Mathematics gives it a right to be called a "Mathematical Cinderella".