Mathematical Instruments: Haggis the Sheep

December 14, 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:

Haggis the Sheep

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

1) Knot your average sheep…
2) What’s on my blackboard?
I’m on Twitter as @haggismaths.

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 live in Edinburgh with my partner-in-crime Julia Collins, who is the Maths Engagement Officer at the Edinburgh University maths department. We finished our PhD in Knot Theory last May and now spend most of our time doing science communication (public lectures, science festivals, school talks, art-science things) and research communication (i.e. telling the world about the great research going on at Edinburgh). Julia also does some undergraduate lecturing and I often make her put sheep-related questions in her problem sheets. :-)

When and how did you first discover mathematical blogs?

I’m not sure how to answer this question.

When did you start blogging?

According to WordPress:
1) 25th May 2009
2) 21st June 2011

Why did you start?

1) I wanted to have a place where I could tell people about all the cool maths I learnt, the lovely mathsy people I met, ideas I had for maths communication and interesting places that I travelled to. One of my first posts was a rant about how one of the curators at the National Museum of Scotland told me that maths was boring, but usually my posts are more full of happiness than angriness.

2) Working in a maths department I’ve come to take it for granted that every day I will see blackboards filled with incomprehensible symbols, beautiful pictures and strange words. One day, after seeing a particularly nice picture on the board in my office, I decided that it was about time to share these works of art with the rest of the world!

What do you write about?

1) See previous answer! I write about any sort of interesting experience of seeing, hearing, doing or communicating maths. Often it’s about events I set up myself, such as the Edinburgh Mathsjam, school talks, science festivals or crafty workshops, but sometimes it’s about maths I see on TV or places I’ve travelled with unexpected maths (e.g. the Vatican in Rome). I’m open to suggestions on things to write about!

2) I post up photos of interesting black/whiteboards, sometimes taken by me around the Edinburgh maths department and sometimes sent in by people around the world. Underneath each picture I write a short caption of what the maths is about or a story behind the board itself. If you have a blackboard photo, please send it in to me! It doesn’t have to be a beautiful work of art – it can be a total mess of scribbles, so long as it means something interesting to you!

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

Without the internet, I doubt I would get recognised by random people I’ve never met before. That’s not bad going for a stuffed sheep. More seriously, there are a lot of great events happening to promote maths which I wouldn’t have heard of or been able to get involved with, and a huge number of wonderful maths enthusiasts I’d never have met. For example, the MathsJam community is very much held together by Twitter where we share our favourite puzzles and games every month.

What does the internet need more of?

People leaving comments on blogs. Seriously, I get over 100 views every day, and maybe 2 comments per blog post if I’m lucky. Say something, people!

Mathematicians on the web have…

Not enough of a presence. Whilst there is a good community of people promoting maths and science, I think there are not enough maths researchers out there who are willing to talk about what they’re working on or how it feels to be a mathematician. I know that research-level maths can often be very hard to explain, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try!

Your daily web reading (mathematical or otherwise):

I love the web comics xkcd, Abstruse Goose and PhD Comics. I check up on the BBC News website a few times a day. Twitter – far too often! Richard Wiseman does a weekly puzzle (on Fridays) which are often worth a look. And the Aperiodical is a great new blog for keeping up to date with maths news and interesting articles. But mostly my web reading consists of whatever Twitter points me to!

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