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.
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
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.
Between the Folds – Youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aFrDN5eYPOQ
More 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=NYKcOFQCeno
More 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/breenj
A really good youtube channel for visualising what's going on in Matrices and All Of That. https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLZHQObOWTQDPD3MizzM2xVFitgF8hE_ab
Algorithm and Blues
This time on the function room, advertising algorithms start to annoy Ruby so I decided to find out a bit more. And who better to talk to than someone the New York Times described as one of the most valuable observers of Big Data. She is American mathematician, data scientist, and author of Weapons of Math Destruction and budding movie star, Cathy O’Neill.
The Solace of Quantum
This time on the Function Room. It's the little things. The really little things. As Ruby(5) and Lily(3) theorise about the computers a fairy might use, I talk to UCD's John Sheekey about Quantum Computers. I got thinking about it before Christmas when Chinese scientists announced another quantum computing breakthrough.
Those brand new heavies that may help humanity heal itself and even the planet but also could mean your money isn't as safe as it was online. Listen to me trying to fit enormous concepts inside my tiny brain, find out about Coding Theory and how a man in a Maths and Stats department in Dublin is trying to stay one step ahead of The Quantum Menace (my hyperbole) armed with pens, paper, markers, whiteboard in an office that doesn't have a window.
(news clips from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E5MBAJJU9Hk )
A Sum of Funny.
A special Christmas episode recorded in an actual theatre. With actual people. Just sound technicians as events are still banned due to me being TOO FUNNY. This was a fun episode with fellow comedian and fellow former engineer Eleanor Tiernan.
It was recorded at the Catcast - a special podcast festival held in the Set Theatre Kilkenny (usually the Comedy Festival home) sponsored by a bit of government money to keep the industry - especially the sound and vision people ticking over.
We chatted about the usual topics of sizing an incinerator, the physics of an adult's jokes, the maths of a toddler's joke, Newton's Law of cooling (whether it's better to put the milk in the tea early or late) and how we both navigated lockdown using the Dunning Kruger effect.