Shrewsbury School

Salopians attend London Mathematical Society lectures

Wednesday 2 October 2013

Miscarriages of justice, the Goldbach conjecture and other unsolved problems of number theory... The London Mathematical Society lectures in Birmingham gave some fascinating food for thought for the aspiring mathematicians in the audience.

A group of 13 pupils, accompanied by Mr Armstrong and Dr Oakley, travelled to Birmingham on Thursday 26th September to attend two lectures put on by the London Mathematical Society.

The first lecture was by Ray Hill from the University of Salford and was an eye-opening, and often macabre, talk on miscarriages of justice and misuse of mathematics and logic in trials. He revealed a series of fallacies with a range of case studies from the famous OJ Simpson trial to a tragic case of cot deaths. The talk certainly highlighted the importance of a rigorous mathematical education.

The second talk was by Vicky Neale, a member of Murray Edwards College, Cambridge, on 'Addictive Number Theory'. She went through a series of problems in number theory, building up from the primes in their infinite number and working up to the unsolved problems of number theory. There were a few formulae designed to scare the audience but it was a well pitched talk that introduced applications of modular arithmetic in a simple way. The talk also highlighted that a conjecture that is easily formulated and seemingly irrefutable can take years for somebody to prove; for example the Goldbach conjecture that states that every even number can be expressed as a sum of two primes, still remains without proof. All even numbers up to 4 quintillion have been checked, so you will have to look further than that for a counterexample.

The two talks gave excellent food for thought for the audience of aspiring (and confirmed) mathematicians.

CWO

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