Friday, 26 December 2008

Behind the maths block

Many people emailed me after hearing Desert Island Discs to ask about what books did my teacher, Mr Bailson, recommend to me behind the back of the maths block when I was 12.

The book which had the biggest impact was

The Language of Mathematics. Frank Land. John Murray (Publishers) Ltd 1960.

You can read a description of the effect of this book on me in Chapter 1 of Finding Moonshine.

The other book which had a big impact probably at a slightly later stage was

A Mathematician’s Apology. G.H. Hardy. Cambridge University Press 1940.

This book made me realise that maths was as much a creative art as a useful science. I was very lucky to have the chance recently to work on Complicite's recent play A Disappearing Number based on the book.

The other thing my teacher recommended was reading Martin Gardner's regular column in Scientific American full of great recreational maths and puzzles. You can get many of these collected together into books.

We were also lucky to do something called the School Mathematics Project or SMP at my comprehensive school. The course taught us about group theory and topology and other exciting topics that count as real maths. I was fortunate to have a teacher who understood the ideas.

I was also lucky to go as a 13 year old to the Royal Institution Christmas Lectures in 1978 when they were first done on maths by Christopher Zeeman.

I was very honoured to be asked to give them my self in 2006. Called The Num8er My5teries they are aimed at 11-16 year olds. You can get a free DVD of the lectures from the Royal Institution and there is an accompanying website full of games

Christmas Lectures 2006

Also I am currently writing a book based on the lectures to be published in 2009 which I am hoping will make perfect material to recommend behind the back of the maths block. It will be called The Num8er My5teries.

Other books in addition to my own that do a great job at inspiring budding mathematicians:
Any book by Rob Eastaway, Ian Stewart, Robin Wilson or Keith Devlin.
The Number Devil by Hans Magnus Enzensberger.
1089 and All That by David Acheson.

Also look out for my regular column Sexy Maths in The Times on a Wednesday.

The Royal Institution run Mathematics Masterclasses for children which are worth checking out. Here is the link for the Masterclasses in London.

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Desert Island Discs

You can hear me on BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs at 9 am on Friday 12th December.

My choices:

Performer Lucia Popp with the London Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Klaus Tennstedt
Composer Strauss
CD Title Strauss: Four Last Songs
Track 1
Label EMI
Rec No CD7470132

2.Fanfare for St Edmondsbury
Performer The Philip Jones Brass Ensemble
Composer Britten
CD Title British Music for Brass:The Philip Jones Brass Ensemble
Track 6
Rec No 4303692

3 The Prelude to Wagner’s Parsifal
Performer The Berlin Philharmonic conducted by Herbert Von Karajan
Composer Wagner
CD Title Wagner: Parsifal
Track 1
Rec No 4133472

4.I Know a Bank from Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Performer James Bowman with The Trinity Boy’s Choir & the City of London Sinfonia conducted by Richard Hickox
Composer Britten
CD Title Britten: A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Track Cd1 trk 6
Rec No

5.Joy of the Blood of the Stars from Messiaen’s Turangalila Symphonie
Performer The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra conducted by Sir Simon Rattle
Composer Messiaen
CD Title Messiaen:Turangalila-Symphonie
Track 5
Label EMI
Rec No 5865252

6 Look My Castle Gleams and Brightens
Performer Eve Marton & Samuel Ramey with the Hungarian State Orchestra conducted by Adam Fischer
Composer Béla Bartók
CD Title Béla Bartók: Bluebeard’s Castle
Track 6
Label CBS
Rec No CD44523

7.The second movement of Shostakovich’s String Quartet No.8
Performer The Brodsky Quartet
Composer Shostakovich
CD Title Shostakovich: Brodsky Quartet
Track 5
Rec No 2449192

8 The Many Rend the Skies with Loud Applause from the Alexander’s Feast
Performer The Bach Choir of Stockholm and Concentus Musicus of Vienna conducted by Nikolaus Harnoncourt
Composer Handel
CD Title Handel: Alexander’s Feast
Track cd2 trk 2
Rec No ZA835671

Record: Wagner’s Parsifal
Book: (instead of the Bible – Mahabharata).
The Glass Bead Game by Hermann Hesse
Luxury: My own trumpet

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

DVD of Story of Maths now available

The DVD of The Story of Maths can now be purchased for £63.24 from the Open University.

The films in this ambitious series offer clear, accessible explanations of important mathematical ideas but are also packed with engaging anecdotes, fascinating biographical details, and pivotal episodes in the lives of the great mathematicians. Engaging, enlightening and entertaining, the series gives viewers new and often surprising insights into the central importance of mathematics, establishing this discipline to be one of humanity’s greatest cultural achievements.

This DVD contains
Programme One: The Language of the Universe
Programme Two: The Genius of the East
Programme Three: The Frontiers of Space
Programme Four: To Infinity and Beyond

To purchase visit The Open University Website