Entrance hall of the ICMSPublic Events 2015


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Eight great reasons for doing maths

Professor Chris Budd, University of Bath

Wednesday 28th October, 6pm (Doors open 5.30pm)

Newhaven Lecture Theatre, 15 South College Street

As a means of stimulating future developments in UK technology, the government has launched Eight Great Technologies including Big Data, Space, Modern Materials and Energy. These will be the focus of future funding and hopefully will lead to major breakthroughs both of direct relevance to society and also in fundamental science. Other countries have similar initiatives.

In this talk Professor Budd will describe these eight great technologies and the challenges that they bring. In particular, he will show that maths is at the heart of all of them, acts as the link between them, and will drive forward future developments in them all.

Reservations for free tickets are available via Eventbrite




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Inner Space, Outer Space: 100 years of General Relativity

Professor Fay Dowker, Imperial College London

Tuesday 8th September, 6pm (Doors open 5.30pm)

Newhaven Lecture Theatre, 15 South College Street

This year, 2015, we are celebrating the 100th anniversary of the theory of gravity we call General Relativity, or GR for short. In the intervening years, GR has been very successful in explaining the physics of Outer Space, of the solar system, of galaxies and of the whole universe on the largest scales that we can observe. I will give an account of some of the underlying concepts of General Relativity that emphasises their intuitive aspects, appealing to the Inner Space of our conscious perceptions to argue that GR is not just more scientifically accurate but more in tune with our intimate experience than its predecessor theory, Newtonian Gravity. It leaves one puzzle unsolved however: how to explain our experience of the passage of time.

Tickets are free and are available via Eventbrite.



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Medical Imaging of the Brain

Dr Grant Mair, Brain Research Imaging Centre, University of Edinburgh

Tuesday 22nd September, 6pm (Doors open 5.30pm)

Newhaven Lecture Theatre, 15 South College Street

Cross sectional medical imaging is over 40 years old.  In 1971 in London, Godfrey Hounsfield performed the first clinical CT scan on a patient with a suspected brain tumour.  Since then, there have been massive technological advances in non-invasive medical imaging including the introduction of clinical MRI in 1977 in New York.  CT and MRI are now capable of providing exquisite structural anatomical detail of the brain.  Functional imaging and nuclear medical techniques have more recently been added to these structural imaging modalities so that we can now also examine brain and disease activity in real time.  As such, the clinical radiologists of today have an array of techniques with which to image the brain.In this lecture, I will discuss the capabilities of modern medical imaging providing illustrative examples of what is possible for a variety of disease processes that affect the brain and how we as radiologists detect and interpret various imaging features to provide relevant diagnoses.  In addition, I will explore some current practical problems with brain imaging including limitations of the technology and the potential for inconsistent image interpretation by human readers

Tickets are free and are available via Eventbrite.




Professor Pierrette Cassou-Nogues, University of Bordeaux

Wednesday 22nd July, 6pm (Doors open 5.30pm)
Newhaven Lecture Theatre, 15 South College Street

Polynomials are simple mathematical objects involving addition, subtraction and multiplication. However, they have played and still play an important role in mathematics. We shall discuss some of this part in algebra and geometry.

Tickets are free and available here.



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Fourier blues: how mathematics explains the beautiful blue colours in birds

Professor Rodolfo Torres, University of Kansas

Tuesday 28th July, 6pm (Doors open 5.30pm)
Newhaven Lecture Theatre, 15 South College Street

There are blue skies and blue birds over the rainbow as the song says, but not all blues are the same. The blue and green colours we see in birds, and even some of the ultraviolet that we cannot see, are produced by the way in which light interacts with ordered nano-structures in the tissues of the birds. This order in the structures can be measured using Fourier analysis, a powerful mathematical tool. Like a prism that decomposes a beam of light into a rainbow of colours, Fourier analysis transforms the geometrical arrangements observed in electron microscope images of the tissues into a mathematical rainbow of basic components that quantify order or periodicities. We will illustrate how Fourier analysis processes the images and helps decipher the colors of birds and other animals. We will use this application of Fourier analysis to present also some of its mathematical concepts and interest. The talk will be accessible to all those who are curious about some of the physics behind the bright blue and green colours found in nature and how mathematics can be used to describe such coloration.

Tickets are free and available here.




On buttons and balls that cannot run away

Professor Bernd Kawohl, University of Cologne

Tuesday 30th June, 6pm (Doors open 5.30pm)
Newhaven Lecture Theatre, 15 South College Street

When does a steel pipe have an exactly circular cross section? When it features constant exterior width from every angle? That could easily be verified with a big caliper or slide gauge, and this procedure was used in the process of assembling booster rockets for the space shuttle. The authors of the corresponding manuals had overlooked the fact that there are geometric shapes, so-called sets of constant width, that are not circles. This was a contributing factor to the Challenger desaster in 1986. In my talk I will point out that these odd sets show up in our daily life, how their knowledge can be used to drill square holes, and that there are interesting mathematical questions connected with them.

Tickets are free and can be reserved here.




Cryptography double bill

Tuesday 26th May, 6pm
Newhaven Lecture Theatre, 15 South College Street

Challenges in standardising cryptography
Chris Mitchell, Professor of Computer Science at Royal Holloway, University of London.

Developments in cryptography over the last 40 years have often been driven by the publication of standards, born out of a desire to promote best practice and encourage interworking. However, deciding what to standardise, how to maintain standards, how to promulgate newly identified issues with standards, and most of all encouraging standards adoption, are all highly problematic questions. This talk will explore these issues, illustrated with examples of where things have not gone as well as they could have!

Development of cryptography in India
Bimal Roy, Director of the Indian Statistical Institute.

Cryptology has come a long way, from being of practical interest to only the Governments and armed forces, to an interdisciplinary academic discipline in the modern era of digital communication and e-commerce. The journey of the subject from confidential military documents to open academic literature is more or less the same in India as in the other parts of the world. In this talk, I will present the evolution of cryptography in Indian academia, since 1990, highlighting the major results produced during the last two decades. I will also focus on the dissemination of cryptography education in India during this period, inception of Cryptology Research Society of India inspired by IACR, and the history of the international conference Indocrypt, which connected us to the vibrant global community in cryptology and allied disciplines.

The talks will be followed by a short reception.

Tickets are free and are available from Eventbrite.
Doors open at 5.30pm


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2020 Vision: Exploring the Cosmos with the Next Generation of Astronomical Telescopes

Martin Hendry, University of Glasgow

Wednesday 7th May, 6pm (Doors open at 5.30pm)
Newhaven Lecture Theatre, 15 South College Street 

Within the next decade a number of ground-breaking astronomical telescopes and facilities will revolutionise our view of the Universe. Instruments such as the James Webb Space Telescope, the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, the Square Kilometre Array and the Advanced LIGO and Virgo interferometers will explore some of the biggest mysteries in astronomy – from searching for earth-like exoplanets to observing the very first galaxies; from directly detecting gravitational waves to mapping dark matter and dark energy across cosmic history. The operation of these facilities will also present new and fascinating challenges for astronomical data analysis: how best to combine ‘multimessenger’ observations across the electromagnetic spectrum and beyond; how to optimally survey diverse source populations and complex processes described by many parameters; how to identify and classify in real time millions of new transient events discovered every night? In this lecture I will survey the coming deluge of observations expected from the next generation of astronomical telescopes, highlighting both the key science questions we hope to address with these facilities and the exciting opportunities for multidisciplinary ‘big data’ research that analysis and exploitation of their observations will provide.

Martin Hendry is Professor of Gravitational Astrophysics and Cosmology in the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Glasgow.

Tickets are free and available from Eventbrite.



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The ICMS Edinburgh International Science Festival Talk 2015

Geometry: A secret weapon in the fight against viruses

Reidun Twarock, University of York

Thursday 16th April 2015, 5.30pm
The Red Lecture Theatre, Summerhall

Viruses are responsible for a wide range of devastating illnesses, yet therapy options are still limited. Virus particles have a fascinating geometric structure, similar to that of a football.  Reidun Twarock and her team at the University of York have developed mathematical tools to study the geometric constraints of virus particles, and are working to develop new anti-viral strategies. Join her to find out how geometry can help us understand how viruses form and evolve and why the discovery of an Achilles’ heel in virus formation could unlock a new perspective in their prevention.

Tickets are £8 (£6, £4) and available from the Edinburgh Internaional Science Festival box office.

Strange gradient flows: The structure of images and novel opportunities in biomedical imaging

Martin Burger, University of Münster

Wednesday 22nd April, 6pm
Newhaven Lecture Theatre, 15 South College Street 

Gradient flow models are naturally appearing in many real systems trying to decrease energy (or increase entropy at fixed energy) over time. The mathematical structure of such models is interesting for many other problems however. In particular imaging has benefited strongly by carrying over such ideas. In this talk we shall discuss at a general and visual level such developments.

A particular focus will be on imaging with sharp edges, which is of course highly important for human perception, and its consequences on the mathematics. Indeed appropriate modelling leads to a class of very strange gradient flows with unusual dynamics. With those strange flows strong improvements in many imaging tasks can be made, as a particularly relevant example we will show how measurement times in medical imaging can be dramatically reduced without significant quality loss. Moreover, we will discuss a more fundamental question about images, namely decomposing it into their main ingredients similar as the human vision would do.

Martin Burger is Professor for Applied Mathematics at Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster. His research interests include Imaging and Inverse Problems, Modelling and Simulation in Biomedicine and Nonlinear PDEs in Biology and Socio-Economics.

Tickets are free and available from Eventbrite.


The mathematics of randomness

Martin Hairer, University of Warwick

Wednesday 11th March, 6pm (Doors open at 5.30pm)
Newhaven Lecture Theatre, 15 South College Street 

From the gambling machines in a Casino to the predictions of next week's weather, the world that surrounds us is governed by seemingly random events. How do mathematicians make sense of this and what does it even mean to "predict" something inherently random? We will explore these questions and see what are the main guiding principles of our modern understanding of randomness. Along the way, we will see how the works of an 18th century egyptologist and a 19th century biologist allow today's banks to model the stock market.

Martin Hairer, is Regius Professor of Mathematics at the University of Warwick. His main research interest is the study of stochastic partial differential equations. In 2014 he was awarded a Fields Medal for his outstanding contributions to the theory of stochastic partial differential equations, and in particular created a theory of regularity structures for such equations.

Tickets are free and available from Eventbrite.


Confidence from uncertainty: separating what we know from what we don’t know about climate change

David Stainforth, London School of Economics and Political Science

Tuesday 24th March, 6pm (Doors open at 5.30pm)
Newhaven Lecture Theatre, 15 South College Street 

The basis for expecting mankind’s emissions of greenhouse gases to change climate is founded in well understood physical principles. This basis enables us to make some statements about the risks and threats posed by climate change with very high confidence. Yet climate prediction also requires us to acknowledge uncertainties. Uncertainties in how the climate system works, uncertainties in how human society uses the scientific knowledge we have, and uncertainties resulting from intrinsic limits to knowledge. This talk will illustrate how high confidence in some aspects of climate change goes hand in hand with substantial uncertainties in others; particularly our ability to provide details of what future climate will look like at any specific location. The results of simulations with large complicated computer models of the climate system will be presented alongside illustrations of simple mathematical concepts - the butterfly effect and its lesser known cousin, the hawkmoth effect. Such results illustrate the scale of the challenge we face when trying to predict the detailed behaviour of something as complex as the earth’s climate. They also demonstrate how increasing the exploration of uncertainty can generate increased confidence in certain aspects of future climate change. How to quantify uncertainty in climate predictions is a grand challenge of science today and this is entirely consistent with overwhelming confidence in the threat to our societies posed by climate change. Responding to such knowledge is a grand challenge for our political systems.

David Stainforth works at the London School of Economics. He is a physicist by training and a climate modeller by experience. His interests and research span many different fields but tend to focus on uncertainty (and its implications) and how we understand and respond to climate change.

Tickets are free and available from Eventbrite.