Sunday, 22 March 2015

Wadham Mathematics equinoctial subject reunion

This Saturday I joined fellow Wadham mathematicians from across the decades for a reunion in Oxford (these photos  were posted by Wadham after the event).  After lunch in college we walked to the new Andrew Wiles Building for a guided tour.

Inside the building Inside the building Interior detail

It's an impressive (and indeed award winning) building on a much bigger scale than the previous Institute and with lecture theatres big enough to hold the first year lectures so todays students are denied the regular site of dinosaurs that we enjoyed on our way to our lectures hosted in a the Natural History Museum.   As we passed through the common room we noticed an intriguing puzzle on one of the screens….. something to muse on.

Puzzle in common room

Settling into one of the lecture rooms we were treated to a delightful series of short talks from some of the Wadam Mathematics fellows.  First up we were introduced to "kiiking" which turns out to involve a large swing that you stand up on and aim to build up the required momentum to manage complete revolutions.  There are 2 records associated with this: the largest number of complete revolutions in 1 minute (video of record - recommend skip forward to just over 8 mins into the video); the greatest height of the swing (video of record).  Having introduced us to the sport Sam Howison then took us on a whistle stop tour of a mathematical model that suggests what the limits of these records will be.  More details - here

Next up Andrew Hodges ( most recently famed as the author of the book Alan Turing: The Enigma which inspired the film "The Imitation Game") spoke about "twistor" geometry.  Discovered back around 1970 by Roger Penrose these ideas were seen as what Andrew called "an Oxford eccentricity".  Work continued and 30 years later they came to be seen as fundamental in some areas of particle physics.  More details at

Nick Woodhouse spoke briefly about the Clay Mathematics Institute ( of which he is the President) and their PROMYS Maths Masterclass program before handing over to Alex Ritter for the last talk of the afternoon.  Alex treated us to a 30 minute tour of tilings.  More content from Roger Penrose but this time his work on non-periodic tiling - fascinating stuff.   Full details in the notes from a masterclass that Alex ran here

With our last lecture of the day complete it was time for a drink and to say goodbye.

It turned out that the 21st was also the day for the opening of the Weston Library so we took the chance for a quick look in there - impressive transformation.

In an action packed day for Oxford it was also the start of the Oxford Literary Festival (maybe the date for the opening of the library across the street wasn't a complete coincidence) so we rounded off our day with a talk in the Sheldonian by Tony Hawks on his new book.

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