Mathematical Instruments: Peter Rowlett

November 30, 2012 § Leave a comment

Mathematical Instruments.

Mathematical Instruments

via Wikimedia Commons

This post is part of the series Mathematical Instruments in which we introduce you to some of the math bloggers listed on our site. Today:

Peter Rowlett — Travels in a Mathematical World

What’s your blog’s name? Any other places we can find you on (Twitter, Google+, Facebook etc)?

My own blog is Travels in a Mathematical World. I also contribute to blogs at The Aperiodical, Second-Rate Minds and the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications’ blog “IMAMATHSBLOGGER” (see what they did there?).

I am on Twitter as @peterrowlett. I’m on Google+ too (though I use that much less frequently). I don’t have a Facebook account. You can also find me as one half of the Math/Maths Podcast.

Would you tell us a little bit more about yourself? E.g., Where are you coming from (both geographically and philosophically)? What is your background? Any scientific education?

I’m from Nottingham in the UK and still live there. I grew up in a village in Nottinghamshire and took a mathematics degree at the University of Nottingham. Since graduating I’ve taken a Masters in computing and worked in various maths/stats education jobs. I’m very interested in the challenge of helping people understand something new about mathematics, whether this is teaching or ‘outreach’ (writing or talking), and aspire to be a lecturer.

When did you start blogging?

February 2008.

Why did you start?

I had started working for the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications, the UK professional body for mathematicians. My job was to travel around the UK talking to university students about mathematics and their careers. As a member-led organisation, I felt it was important that the members are able to find out about what I was doing, if they choose to, and blogging seemed to be a natural way to do this.

What do you write about?

Many of the early posts tracked my travels around the UK for the IMA, either talking about places I’d been or things that had happened to me. After a while I started releasing a podcast, also called Travels in a Mathematical World, and the blog held the shownotes for this. My ‘travels’ were always both literal and metaphorical, but latterly they have been more often the latter as I no longer work for the IMA, with posts about neat things I’ve seen online and stuff I’ve been thinking about.

Since April, Travels in a Mathematical World has become my ‘column’ on The Aperiodical. The Aperiodical aims to be a meeting-place for people who already know they like maths and would like to know more. We publish various columns, features, video and news. I have been contributing to The Aperiodical news feed, with short items covering news of interest to the mathematically-minded.

Second-Rate Minds is a kind of blogging experiment/practice for Samuel Hansen and I. We take turns to write a post that the other edits before it goes live. I’m afraid the posts aren’t as frequent there as I would like and it’s entirely my fault as I so rarely find time to write anything or edit what Samuel has written. We had a popular few posts and this puts the pressure on to write something excellent, rather than just messing around! We try to stick to a tight word limit because we think this is good practice. Theoretically, I’ve experimented with a piece giving a puzzle that’s useful for education, an opinion piece that I thought would get people going but really hasn’t, a same-day write-up of a press release and a short historical account.

Finally, I contribute to the IMA members’ blog IMAMATHSBLOGGER. This is still finding its feet but it has a list of contributors who write about things that may interest IMA members. I wrote a sort-of ramble through numerology and several posts giving brief accounts of IMA East Midlands Branch talks I had attended (the trick, of course, is to say something interesting without giving too much away – I don’t want to spoil the speaker’s talk!).

Mathematicians on the web have…

Plenty to read? I’m amazed by the volume of content that goes through the Mathblogging.org index page every day. I’d love to say I aspire to reading it all but really, there’s no way I’ll have time to catch up! And yet I meet mathematicians in the real world who are barely aware that mathematicians blog at all. Astonishing!

Your daily web reading (mathematical or otherwise):

I really have very little time to regularly read anything. I keep an eye on Twitter and daily read one or more articles that people have posted, and I try to keep an eye on the news for The Aperiodical and Math/Maths through Twitter and a series of searches. I generally keep up with xkcd, though often in fits of two weeks at a time. I certainly try to read everything that goes through The Aperiodical, the writing Samuel puts on ACMEScience and Edmund Harriss’ Maxwell’s Demon. Inevitably, though, I fail to keep up. I like what Michael Lugo is doing with God plays dice and what Tony Mann is doing with Tony’s Maths. I’ve been trying to keep up with Keith Devlin’s MOOC experiment.

I read the most when I host a Carnival of Mathematics (new volunteer hosts welcome!). People send you their favourite blog posts and you have a decent excuse to take some time reading them!

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Mathblogging.org — The Blog by mathblogging.org is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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Mathematical Instruments: Peter Cameron’s Blog

November 24, 2012 § 2 Comments

Mathematical Instruments.

Mathematical Instruments

via Wikimedia Commons

This post is part of the series Mathematical Instruments in which we introduce you to some of the math bloggers listed on our site. Today:

Peter Cameron

What’s your blog’s name? Any other places (Twitter, Google+, Facebook etc) we can find you on?

The blog is unimaginatively named “Peter Cameron’s Blog“, but I use the name Cameron Counts, taken from a novel by Richard Brautigan, “The Hawkline Monster: A Gothic Western”, one of whose heroes was called Cameron. His trademark was counting things.

I don’t do Twitter etc.; I am on Facebook only because I wanted to comment on something and found I had to join and then couldn’t unjoin. I never go there! I am a bit of a technophobe really: at my age, I don’t have to apologise for this. I do run another blog, qmdiscrete.wordpress.com, for the Centre for Discrete Mathematics at my university; and I have a personal web page which has some features of a blog (such as a “photo of the month” taken on one of my walks) at www.maths.qmul.ac.uk/~pjc.

Would you tell us a little bit more about yourself?  E.g., Where are you coming from (both geographically and philosophically)? What is your (scientific) background?

I’m Australian, but moved to Britain when I was 21, and am still here at the age of 65. So I am a child of the 1960s, and have kept the liberal attitude that goes with that.

I have lived in East London for the last fifteen years, quite close to where I work. This is an excellent place to live: a vibrant urban community, and with excellent transport links for when I want to get away (as, for example, when the Olympic Games were on earlier this year).

I am the sort of mathematician who is not good at delving deep; I would rather find unexpected connections between apparently unrelated fields. One of my most cited papers connected up root systems (from the theory of Lie algebras) with graph spectra.

If you divide mathematicians into discrete and continuous (prickly or gooey, as Alan Watts said), I am definitely on the discrete side.

When and how did you first discover mathematical blogs? When did you start blogging? Why did you start?

I will answer these three questions together, since it is all the same story. A few years ago the London Mathematical Society was in the middle of a heated debate over whether to merge with the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications. A group of mathematicians I respected were running a blog in support of one side of the debate; when things turned nasty and lawyers were called in, they (as officers of the society) had to take their hands off, and asked me to take over as an administrator of the blog. This was all entirely new to me, so I thought I would start up my own blog first, so I could make my mistakes in private. At that stage, I really had no idea what a blog was.

Of course, I found that it was quite addictive, and was a good way of letting off steam when the bosses had done something that really annoyed me, by having a public rant about it; so I have just kept going.

What do you write about?

More than half of what I write about is mathematics, mostly expository. If I discover a new piece of mathematics, I want to tell people about it; but I like to do expositions aimed at non-specialists, such as a series of a dozen posts about the symmetric groups. I find that these are among the most popular and long-lived of my posts; there is often one of the symmetric group series among my top ten.

As well as that, I write about the mechanics of teaching, the technology (one of my most popular posts was about how to use non-default LaTeX fonts in Beamer presentations), and the politics; and I am not averse to talking about my hobbies, such as walking, music, and poetry, from time to time.

What wouldn’t have happened to you without the internet?

Many things! One of the best things about the internet is that people I have never met, from all over the world, get in touch. Often these contacts result in meetings, joint papers, or invitations. But there are several people far away who have commented on my blog, and I regard as friends, as far as you can be friends with someone you haven’t met.

For example, the tagline on my blog, “Always busy counting, doubting every figured guess”, is the start of an abecedarian poem by JoAnne Growney; I get a warm feeling every time she posts a comment.

And there is no doubt that the internet makes mathematical collaboration much easier. I started research in the days when it was necessary to exchange letters with people in America or Australia; the letter would take a week or two and probably cross with one from my collaborator, so work was duplicated unnecessarily and everything went very slowly.

What does the internet need more of?

The problem with the internet is that content is growing faster than tools for dealing with it. Mathematicians need some permanence; our work doesn’t become obsolete for decades, maybe centuries if we are lucky. But if you search for a particular piece of content, recent papers tend to come up; they are maybe at the end of a long chain of citations from the one I am looking for.

Of course the search box will find anything on my blog, but how do you know what to look for? I have a table of contents which is meant to help fill this gap.

Mathematicians on the web have…

Most importantly, the arXiv. All the current debate about open-access and author-pays are largely irrelevant to mathematicians, since most recent papers I am looking for will be there.

It is a little hard to believe that in the early days of the web, not much more than 20 years ago, mathematicians were in the forefront of using it!

Your daily web reading (mathematical or otherwise):

I have three sites I look at regularly:

  • Astronomy Picture of the Day (a feast for the eyes)
  • Diamond Geezer (a blogger who lives just down the road from me, and knows everything about what is going on in our part of London)
  • XKCD (another person I am sure I would get on with if we ever met)

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Mathblogging.org — The Blog by mathblogging.org is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://www.mathblogging.org.

Mathematical Instruments: The Renaissance Mathematicus

November 16, 2012 § Leave a comment

Mathematical Instruments.

Mathematical Instruments

via Wikimedia Commons

This post is part of the series Mathematical Instruments in which we introduce you to some of the math bloggers listed on our site. Today:

Thony Christie — The Renaissance Mathematicus

What’s your blog’s name? Any other places (Twitter, Google+, Facebook etc) we can find you on?

I blog at The Renaissance Mathematicus and am present on Twitter as @rmathematicus.

Would you tell us a little bit more about yourself?  E.g., Where are you coming from (both geographically and philosophically)? What is your background?  Any scientific education?

I’m an aging English freak who has now lived half of his life in Franconia in Germany. I have a lifelong passion for the history of science in general and the history of mathematics in particular. I originally studied archaeology, metallurgy and mathematics in Britain but dropped out after one year. I have extensive experience as a field archaeologist, theatre technician, sound technician and quite a few other things as well. In Germany I studied mathematics, philosophy, history, English philology and a couple of other things with an emphasis on the history and philosophy of science for 10+ years as a mature student but dropped out again shortly for completing my master’s degree! I spent 10 years working as a researcher in a project on the social (read external) history of formal logic, special area of research 19th century British logical algebras i.e. Boole & co.

When and how did you first discover mathematical blogs?

Maybe five or six years ago.

When did you start blogging?

I started blogging three years ago.

Why did you start?

Because somebody on whose blog I had written extensive comments and a couple of guest posts suggested it was about time that I started my own blog.

What do you write about?

I write mostly about the history of the mathematical sciences mostly in the period between about 1400 CE and 1800 CE but I have been known to deviate quite widely.

What wouldn’t have happened to you without the Internet?

I wouldn’t have become part of a worldwide community of people interested in practicing and propagating the history of science and my life would have been considerably intellectually poorer as a result.

What does the Internet need more of?

No idea!

Mathematicians on the web have…

The chance to find and communicate with people from all over the world who share their interests.

Your daily web reading (mathematical or otherwise):

Vast, wide, scattered and often very random.

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Mathblogging.org — The Blog by mathblogging.org is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://www.mathblogging.org.

Mathematical Instruments: Keith Devlin

November 9, 2012 § Leave a comment

Mathematical Instruments.

Mathematical Instruments

via Wikimedia Commons

This post is part of the series Mathematical Instruments in which we introduce you to some of the math bloggers listed on our site. Today:

Keith Devlin

What’s your blog’s name? Any other places (Twitter, Google+, Facebook etc) we can find you on?

I have three personal blogs: profkeithdevlin.org, mooctalk.org, devlinsangle.blogspot.com, and I also blog for The Huffington Post.

Twitter: @profkeithdevlin

I have a FB account but am not active on it.

Would you tell us a little bit more about yourself? E.g., Where are you coming from (both geographically and philosophically)? What is your background? Any scientific education?

Born and grew up in the UK, lived in US since 1987, US citizen since around 2000. BSc and PhD in mathematics, both from the UK. I’m a rationalist. I don’t state opinions for which i don’t have some fairly good supporting evidence.

When and how did you first discover mathematical blogs?

Natural progression soon after they began from my online column for the MAA, though it was some time before I started my own personal blog, profkeithdevlin.org

When did you start blogging?

The only meaningful answer is 1984, when I started to write a twice monthly column in The Guardian newspaper in the UK. The medium has changed since then, but I do the same thing.

Why did you start?

I was asked to by the Guardian, but they asked me after I sent them in an unsolicited article they liked. I sent in that article because I noticed they almost never covered mathematics in their weekly science section.

What do you write about?

Mathematics, pure and applied, educational uses of video games, technology, mathematics in society, mathematics education, and online education.

What wouldn’t have happened to you without the internet?

I would have done the same things, more or less.

What does the internet need more of?

Spam and malware control.

Mathematicians on the web have…

the potential to reach and connect meaningfully to a large number of people, even though it will be a small percentage of the total population.

Your daily web reading (mathematical or otherwise):

Almost all my reading (and viewing) is on the Web: primarily news outlets.

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Mathblogging.org — The Blog by mathblogging.org is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://www.mathblogging.org.

Mathematical Instruments: cp’s mathem-o-blog

November 5, 2012 § Leave a comment

Mathematical Instruments.

Mathematical Instruments

via Wikimedia Commons

This post is part of the series Mathematical Instruments in which we introduce you to some of the math bloggers listed on our site. Today:

Christian Perfect: cp’s mathem-o-blog

What’s your blog’s name? Any other places we can find you on (Twitter, Google+, Facebook etc)?

My blog’s name is “cp’s mathem-o-blog” or checkmyworking.com. I thought the domain name was very clever when I bought it but it doesn’t really work as a name for a blog. I also edit The Aperiodical and I’m on Twitter as @christianp.

Would you tell us a little bit more about yourself? E.g., Where are you coming from (both geographically and philosophically)? What is your background? Any scientific education?

I’m a postgrad mathematician from Newcastle upon Tyne in the north-east of England. My research is in group theory and computability, but I don’t do very much of it. I have Asperger’s syndrome, which probably explains a lot of my way of thinking.
I currently work in Newcastle University’s school of maths and stats as “e-learning officer”, which means I do lots of things to do with putting maths on the web for students and academics.

When and how did you first discover mathematical blogs?

I think the first mathematical blog I encountered was www.mathpuzzle.com (does that count as a blog?), during my undergrad. I hadn’t seen any recreational mathematics at school and I found my degree quite boring, so it gave me a lot of ideas about what I want to do with maths.

When did you start blogging?

When I started my PhD, in 2010.

Why did you start?

To make myself write down notes about my research in an intelligible form. Hence the domain name.

What do you write about?

Most of my posts on checkmyworking.com are either about Newcastle MathsJam, which I organise, exposition of puzzles or trivia I’ve encountered, or programmery stuff about putting maths on the web.
On The Aperiodical I collect interesting maths esoterica, do occasional round-ups of maths links I find, collect art with maths in it, and I find myself writing up an increasing number of dreary news stories.

What would have happened to you without the internet?

I’d know a lot less and I’d have a lot fewer friends, I suppose.

What does the internet need more of?

I don’t know if the internet needs anything. The question is really about what I’d like the internet to have, right?
Actually, The Aperiodical is my statement about what I want the internet to have more of. I’m happy to watch the world go by, though. I will waive this opportunity to ask for anything.

Mathematicians on the web have…

…got to see the prime-number pooing bear – http://alpha61.com/primenumbershittingbear/

Your daily web reading (mathematical or otherwise):

Far too much to list usefully.
MetaFilter, Images des Mathématiques, NOTCOT.org, Google+ is great for watching real mathematicians talk, Slashdot (only the neckbeards are left! It’s tolerable now!) and lots and lots of Twitter. Turismo matemático is a lovely little blog that I think I might be the only person following.

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Mathblogging.org — The Blog by mathblogging.org is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://www.mathblogging.org.

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