Department of Mathematics

Outreach Talks

We have a wide selection of talks that are suitable to be presented (for free!) at a variety of levels for suitable educational groups, including schools, colleges and public societies (although we only visit groups who can ensure a diverse audience, with the exception of single-sex schools).  All our talks are approximately 45 minutes in length, allowing time for questions at the end.  Details of these talks are listed below.  Please contact us if you would like any of our speakers to visit you, with suggested dates and times, and we will do our best to visit when convenient.


Dr Konstantin Blyuss - Synchronisation in technology and nature

Synchronization is a universal phenomenon arising when in a large system of connected units, suddenly they start to behave as one. This spans all scales and types of systems: from schools of fish to swarms of birds and fireflies, to neurons in the brain and people walking on a bridge. This talk will introduce and discuss some examples of how synchronization arises and how it can be studied mathematically.

Dr Filippo Cagnetti - The Mathematics of soap bubbles

Why are soap bubbles round? This simple question is related to very deep mathematical problems, which remained unsolved for centuries. After recalling the history of the isoperimetric problem, we will discuss some very recent developments in the subject.

Prof Peter Giesl - Dynamical Systems: between attractivity and chaos

Dynamical systems arise everywhere in nature: they describe populations of foxes and rabbits, the movements of planets, weather forecast, even acrobatics. They are systems which evolve with time. Such systems can have very different long-time behaviour: either they can tend to a certain state, e.g. foxes and rabbits die out eventually, or just one of them survives. Or they can tend to a periodic orbit, e.g. a planet moving around the sun. They can also be chaotic, such as the famous Lorenz system, describing weather. In this talk we will see a variety of dynamical systems in pictures and movies, and we will understand what "attractive" and "chaotic" really means!

Prof James Hirschfeld - Sending secret messages

The science of sending secret messages is Cryptography and goes back over 2000 years. Secret messages are widely used in modern communication. Electronic authentication, banking, and credit cards are just a few applications. The mathematics behind this often relies on properties of prime numbers. In this talk relevant properties of prime numbers are described. Both ancient and modern methods of Cryptography are outlined.

Prof James Hirschfeld - Getting the right message

The mathematics of correcting errors in a transmitted message was first described in 1948 and is known as Coding Theory. It is widely applied in modern communication. Credit cards, digital radio, mobile phones, sending photographs from satellites all use error-correcting codes. The mathematics behind this is linear algebra, that is, solving linear equations. In this talk, some simple examples are explained, such as the use in credit cards.

Dr Yuliya Kyrychko - Chaos and synchrony: the maths of life

Complex systems are everywhere. They arise in a variety of natural and artificial settings, with examples including electrical power grids, computer communication networks, rail and air transportation systems, global financial institutions, neurons in the brain, intricate food webs, and various social media used by millions of people every day.

In this talk, I will use real-life examples to discuss how we can use mathematical modelling to understand fascinating dynamics of such systems, and what we can learn from their emergent behaviour, which can be completely disordered and unpredictable, or fully synchronised.

Dr Omar Lakkis - Soap bubbles, snow flakes and walking on water

mathematical minimal surface area bubbles problemMolecules are bit like people - some attract each other and some repel each other. Water molecules are attracted to each other and "stick together" which is why rain comes down in droplets, but water and oil molecules don't like each other and repel each other. The pressure (or force) that binds molecules together is called "surface tension".

A new and developing branch of mathematics looks at surface tension and time evolution of surfaces: for example how crystals and snowflakes grow. And add enough cornstarch to water and the surface tension increases (because water and starch love each other and form giant molecules known as polymers), so much so that the miracle of walking on water becomes reality.

Mathematics makes it possible to simulate these phenomena on a computer. By doing so, scientists can understand these phenomena better and engineers can design manufacturing of crystals processes better.

Prof Enrico Scalas - From coin tossing to financial markets

From coin tossing to financial markets

Prof Enrico Scalas - Probability: Making sense of an uncertain world

Probability: Making sense of an uncertain world