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Talks for Schools

Here you'll find the names of our academics who have a talk prepared and are happy to visit local schools. Please contact the academics listed below. If you have any queries regarding Talks for Schools please email Dr Mark Wildon.

There is no charge for talks. Payment of travel expenses is appreciated.

Note: The level of mathematics involved in these talks can be adjusted to fit most audiences.

Dr Carlos Cid: Symmetry in Mathematics

In nature, the notion of symmetry is often associated with harmony of forms and beauty, and its concept is widely applied in the design of objects of all shapes and sizes, such as in arts, architecture and even music.

Most animals present some form of bilateral symmetry. Symmetry's natural habitat is however in Mathematics. The concept can be described mathematically and the ubiquity of symmetric forms in nature is a great motivation for the study of the mathematics behind symmetry.

We discuss the geometric and mathematical concept of symmetry in various forms, such as reflectional,rotational and translational symmetry. We also consider wallpaper and crystallographic symmetry. Finally, we look  for examples found in both organic and inorganic nature that illustrate the beauty of symmetry.

Dr Rainer Dietmann: Prime and Perfect Numbers

Prime numbers are amongst the most fascinating objects in mathematics. In this talk, we want to discuss some of their basic properties such as the fact that there are infinitely more of them. We will discuss why it is important in mathematics to prove such facts rather than making a limited number of observations.

If time permits we also want to discuss an interesting special class of prime numbers - Mersenne primes. These are closely connected to so called perfect numbers, which are subject to many interesting unresolved conjectures themselves.

Professor Glyn Harman: Maths is All Around Us

This is a light-hearted account of the pervasiveness of mathematics in the modern world, including reference to strange attractors. The presentation uses Powerpoint and video clips and is suitable for all sixth formers.

Professor Keith Martin: Cryptography and the Da Vinci Code

This talk will provide an introduction to cryptography, a science which has played an important historic role and now underpins the security of information systems, including the internet.

We will demonstrate some of the security problems with sending information over the internet and discuss how cryptography can be used to address these. Attendees will have the chance to solve some simple cryptographic puzzles and learn a little bit about how cryptography works.

Professor Martin will also discuss if any real cryptography is used in Dan Brown's book The Da Vinci Code.

Professor James McKee: Mathematics at University

This talk aims to provide sixth-formers (and their teachers) with an up-to-date picture of Mathematics at University today - the way it relates to, and differs from, the subject at A-Level, the wide range of topics available (from abstract algebra to theoretical physics, from the mathematics of decision making to cryptography), the way to distinguish between mathematics degree courses at different universities, and the careers taken up by mathematics graduates.

Mr Laurence O'Toole: Cryptology – The Science of Secrecy

Electronic security is a daily concern in the modern technological world. Banks, law enforcement, governments, armies, and private individuals all have information that they want to keep hidden from prying eyes. But this need for secrecy is nothing new. Cryptography is almost as old as writing itself, and ciphers are as diverse as the history in which they were used. In this talk, we'll look at some of the cunning techniques that have been used over the last two thousand years. You will learn some of the methods that are used to make a message appear to be gibberish. But you will also discover that there are tricks to deciphering the gibberish anyway.

Professor Kenny Paterson: From Fish to Phishing

Cryptography is a beautiful and ancient subject, and today is a thriving academic discipline at the intersection of mathematics and computer science. Cryptography plays an important role in securing many facets of everyday life, including, for example, our mobile phone calls, our credit card payments and (soon) our electronic health records.

In this talk, Professor Paterson will discuss some of the real-world problems that arise when cryptography is put into use. The talk will begin with the discussion of Fish, an important cipher from World War II, with an explanation of how it was broken at Bletchley Park using a combination of luck, ingenuity and hard work.

He will end with Phishing - a modern phenomenon in which fraudsters trick victims into revealing sensitive personal information such as credit card details. He will try to extract from these and other examples what cryptography can (and cannot) do for us.

Professor Fred Piper: How to keep a secret: An introduction to Cryptography

Many people now encrypt their email messages to prevent others from reading them. Financial institutions use cryptography to protect transactions conducted over open networks. How does it work? In this lecture we will look at some of the basic principles and see how cryptography has developed.

Dr Mark Wildon: The Liar Game

Ask a friend to think of a secret number between 1 and 15. How many questions with yes/no answers do you need to discover your friend's number? How many questions would you need if your friend is permitted to lie in one answer? In this talk, we will answer these questions and learn how to play these games optimally, using the mathematics of coding theory to detect lies. The talk is interactive. Slides for the 30 minute version and the one hour version are available. 


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