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 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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