World Cup woes? You do the maths!

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01 Jul 2014

England’s early exit from the World Cup may have left football fans feeling forlorn but for those inclined to spice things up with a flutter on the remaining fixtures, help may be at hand.

The country’s leading maths experts are gathering at The University of Manchester on Thursday and Friday for the inaugural Festival of Mathematics and its Applications aimed at anyone interested in the beauty and usefulness of mathematics and seeing its relevance to the real world.

Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter, Winton Professor of the Public Understanding of Risk at Cambridge University, will be one of the main speakers at the event with a talk entitled, ‘Sex, Drugs and Sausage Rolls’. During his talk he will be testing the psychic abilities of his audience and seeing whether they are better at spotting the World Cup winner in Brazil than Paul the octopus, who famously predicted eight World Cup matches in 2010,

The event, organised to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Institute of Mathematics & its Applications (IMA), will feature talks, lectures and hands-on sessions from some of the UK’s best maths communicators.

As well as testing the World Cup predictions, experts will also be showing visitors to the festival how to build a computer using dominoes, demonstrate the mathematics of juggling and card tricks, look at climate change and even explore the ‘maths of cows’!

David Abrahams, Beyer Professor of Applied Mathematics at The University of Manchester and one of the organisers, said: “The majority of talks and activities will be aimed at school students, teachers, parents and members of the public and will be given by experts at public engagement and maths communication.

Mathematics has applications in virtually everything around us and this festival aims to demonstrate just how useful maths can be but in a fun and engaging way that even those with little knowledge of the subject will find fascinating.

Professor Spiegelhalter said: “You take a risk whenever things may turn out well, or not so well, and you don't know which it will be.  So you take risks all the time, but this does not mean you have to be reckless.  I will be talking about how you can use the probability ideas to take daily risks apart, and how this might help decide whether you should go for it or not.  Examples will include sex, drugs, sausage rolls, and Total Wipeout."

Organiser Professor Chris Budd, from the University of Bath and Vice-President of the IMA, added: “The future of UK science and technology will depend on the creativity of mathematicians, young and old. The festival will give us all a glimpse of this future.”

Notes for editors

Interviews with the experts taking part in the IMA festival can be arranged through the media relations office.

Further details about the talks and presentations taking place over the two days (July 3 and 4) can be found here:

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