News Maths Inspiration Live 22.11.2023

On Monday over 50 Lower Sixth mathematicians visited the Cambridge Theatre for a series of lectures called Maths Inspiration Live.

Our host was the stand-up comedian and Sunday Times best-selling author Matt Parker, who introduced the three speakers and entertained us throughout. Popular mathematics author and New Scientist puzzlist Rob Eastaway, pitted students’ wits against ChatGPT and demonstrated how it lacks the creativity to solve puzzles.

From ‘How many times are the minute-hand and hour hand at exactly the same position between 00.00 and 11.59’ to what comes next in the sequences: A, E, F, H, I, K, L, M, N, … ; and O, T, T, F, F, S, S, … , he demonstrated why generative AI currently lacks the creativity of humans to solve problems outside of the box and also prompted students to question when a creative solution becomes cheating using the number column puzzle.

Dr Aoife Hunt MBE, a leading specialist in the movement of crowds, spoke to pupils about the underlying mathematics behind modelling movement and the safe evacuation at big events such as Glastonbury and when designing new stadia. She led live experiments on human walking speed at different densities as well as discussing how you incorporate statistical behaviours using the Normal distribution (or log-Normal for how long people spend in toilets) and the parabolic relationship that governs traffic and flow in corridors (familiar to our girls from lesson changeovers!).

Finally, Ben Sparks talked us through some of the beauty of mathematics via Sting’s classic ‘Shape of My Heart’: from the ‘hidden law of a probable outcome’ and gambling with the audience using the Birthday Paradox to ensure we think about risk and odds in our decision making rather than trusting our intuition, to showing how a simple population dynamical system from biology can explain what observable behaviours but also generate chaos where ‘the numbers lead a dance’.