A podcast about the big numbers, the hard sums, the mathematics that defines, runs, shapes, changes, begins, ends, every things our lives and the world around us. Hosted by Colm O'Regan. An award-winning radio broadcaster, comedian, novelist and it turns out lapsed engineer who is trying to feel useful again. Each episode sheds light on a tiny corner of a giant subject with entertaining guests and accessible talk.
Where Is There a Will?
In this episode after Ruby makes up her mind, we’re talking about the mathematics of free will. It's recorded at the Cat Laughs Comedy Summer Series in Kilkenny, Ireland. A special series of shows to reintroduce everyone to the vague concept of Going To Stuff Again.My guest is Dr Kevin Mitchell. He’s a neuroscientist a professor at Trinity College Dublin and author of a book called Innate which goes right into the heart of the brain…well not the heart, confusing terminology, but right into the cells. And as he got to the smallest bits of the brain, Kevin started to wonder about free will and whether we have any choice in any matter. The notion of free will has been debated by the finest minds for thousands of years. So naturally I felt qualified to join in.And what has it to do with maths. Well…buckle up because we’re in for a bit of a head melt as we tackle topics like quantum physics, a smidge of chaos theory, WHAT IS A NUMBER ANYWAY and where annoying phantom traffic jams come from on the motorway. (apart from over reliance on cars obvs)You can Kevin at https://www.kjmitchell.com/ and on twitter at https://twitter.com/WiringTheBrain and of course me at www.colmoregan.com and on twitter the podcast is at https://twitter.com/functionroompod
This time, it's about Growth and De-Growth. De-What? What-Growth? A term that's been around for a while but it's obviously being talked about more if an eejit like me is throwing it around at dinner-parties. (or I will when they come back)My guest is Dr Jason Hickel who has written about Degrowth in his book Less is More. We talk about what is degrowth what it isn't, the sneaky power of exponential growth, why imperialism is alive and (making people un)well, the curious history of GDP, a brief tangent on the history of the board game monopoly, social media fights, Ruby gets to the nub of global inequality when talking about dolls and why despite all of the depressing stuff he has to read, Jason is still optimistic.
The Ps of Queues
Welcome back to the Function Room, And this time, it’s about QUEUES. This has been a summer of queues. A flurry of covid tests and two vaccinations have meant a brush with Big Queue. Which got me thinking - What makes a good queue or a bad one? And is there any maths behind it. There’s a hatch free so step forward, Professor Ken Duffy, director of the Hamilton Institute in Maynooth University to tell me about Queuing Theory.As usual on the Function room, the topic goes off in all sorts of directions. Along the way we find out about old telephone exchanges, how Victorian Britain’s worries about their Lordships going extinct led them to develop theory that was used a century later to look at viruses and what it takes to get your mathematics soldered onto a computer chip.
A Chip Off The New Block
This time on the function room: My guide to helping people think you’re a great parent. While someone else does the job.The secret? It’s numberblocks. The BAFTA winning animated CBEEBIES TV show for 3 to 6 year old children to get them interested in mathematics in an accessible way. Our children love it. They request it. They watch the same programmes over and over. They are not geniuses – well obvious they are – but it’s not considered polite to say. We are not Tiger parents so far. It's just this TV show. It's funny and fun and like millions around the world our Two are hooked on it.They sing the songs, they get invested in the stories. What is it about it? Well the songs are catchy, the animation is great, the stories work. But the sums add up.I wanted to find out why. So I talked to Debbie is the Primary Director at the National centre for Excellence in Teaching Mathematics in the UK but also she's the maths consultant on Numberblocks!Debbie Morgan on Twitter https://twitter.com/thinkingmaths Numberblocks: https://www.learningblocks.tv/numberblocks/home
Welcome to the Fold
This time we’re folding. We’re creasing. We’re origami-ing. As Ruby and I make two birds and two planes, I find out a little bit about the world of folding. Even with those small things we made we still got the feeling we were playing with something much bigger. Just by taking a flat sheet of paper and transforming. Folding is seen as a negative word, a defeat. Not to the people like Paul Jackson an artist who teaches folding in 80 universities or Robert Lang who gave up engineering degrees to focus on origami solutions to problems of the small and the big.Or to my guest She’s Dr Rachel Quinlan, Head of the School of Mathematics, Statistics and Applied Mathematics. In her day-job according to the NUIG website, "hercurrent research interests are generally in the area of algebra, especially linear algebra and its interactions with group theory, combinatorics, and field theory" .."group theory, particularly the ordinary and projective representation theory of finite groups." But I know that stuff like the back of my hand. So it’s her beautiful origami tessellations that caught my eye.Along the way you’ll hear about MC Escher, listen to me struggle to describe Euclid, a brief mention of diffraction, topology, stents, airbags and naturally where it always ends: With the structure of the universe.And sorry about the delay. I know it’s a pain when podcasts are irregular. Work came in that pays the bills and I'm still trying to work out a way to fit this job into all the others. LINKSBetween the Folds – Youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aFrDN5eYPOQMore about Vanessa Gould https://www.vanessagould.com/More about Paul Jackson http://www.origami-artist.com/More about Robert Lang https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NYKcOFQCenoMore about Dr. Rachel Quinlan http://www.maths.nuigalway.ie/~rquinlan/ and see her art here https://twitter.com/rkquinlan
The Matrix Revised
Okay enough messing around, this week we get into the Matrix. Okay not that matrix. The mathematical matrix. But this one is way more powerful than a dystopian future in which humanity is unknowingly trapped inside a simulated reality. That’s piddly. Mathematical matrices are used in everywhere, from making computer games to quantum physics.That’s Jane Breen ,Assistant Professor in Applied Maths in Ontario University in Canada. She loves modelling the complexity of networks in the real world with some very powerful and sometimes simple tools. Speaking of simple tools, before long, I start throw around lingo like Eigenvalues and Markov Chains like I know what I'm talking about. We find out how Google got so successful, a brief digression into how drugmakers know their drugs will work and before finishing off on how to control the spread of disease. And Ruby and Lily find themselves playing with a real-life application of a Markov Chain, a Game of Snakes and Ladders. Jane Breen https://sites.google.com/view/breenjA really good youtube channel for visualising what's going on in Matrices and All Of That. https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLZHQObOWTQDPD3MizzM2xVFitgF8hE_ab
Really interesting and accessible with great guests
Colm strikes gold with this combination of humour and science. Fabulous guests and a really interesting listen.