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Faculty of Mathematics


Cambridge mathematicians, statisticians and theoretical physicists are passionate about engaging with the public to share their love of the subject. Faculty researchers undertake public engagement in a multitude of different forms, from talking at museums and music festivals, to writing popular books and newspaper articles, and appearing on radio and TV. Here are a few examples of the breadth and scope of this outreach.

Stephen Hawking

Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time is a modern classic and perhaps the most famous popular cosmology book of the last 50 years. Since its publication in 1988, it has reached more than 10 million readers. Professor Hawking's science communication has successfully crossed over into popular culture: he has appeared in a number of TV shows, including The Simpsons and Big Bang Theory, and famously took part in the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Paralympic Games.

Fields Medallist Sir Timothy Gowers is the author of Mathematics: A Very Short Introduction. You can listen to him discussing P vs NP on BBC Radio 4's In Our Time, and both music and mathematics on BBC Radio 3's Private PassionsHe also writes an influential - and fascinatingly readable - blog.

Examples of recent books by members of the Faculty include A Farewell to Ice: A Report from the Arctic by Peter Wadhams, Professor of Ocean Physics at DAMTP; and Sex by Numbers: What Statistics Can Tell Us About Sexual Behaviour by David Spiegelhalter, Winton Professor for the Public Understanding of Risk (you can watch this video of Professor Spiegelhalter discussing the book on Plus).

David Spiegelhalter has also produced the Understanding Uncertainty website, which explores a range of topics related to chance, risk, uncertainty and probability. His TV appearances range from appearances on Newsnight to being a contestant on Winter Wipeout, and presenting Tails You Win: the Science of Chance on BBC Four. He was knighted in 2014, with the citation noting that his work has made 'a significant difference to how to communicate with patients and the public about risk'. You can learn more about his work in this interview by Jim Al-Khalili for BBC Radio 4's The Life Scientific

Julia Gog's popular lecture on epidemics and viruses.

John Barrow is the author of 22 books exploring many aspects of mathematics and physics, including 100 Essential Things You Didn't Know You Didn't Know About Maths and the Arts100 Essential Things You Didn't Know You Didn't Know About Maths and Sport, and The Infinite Book. He was Gresham Professor of both Astronomy and Geometry, and you can watch videos of all his public lectures given in connection with this on the Gresham College website

Helen Mason's extensive outreach and education work includes setting up the Sun|Trek website for schools, as well as giving frequent talks and appearing on radio and TV. She was awarded an OBE for services to education and women in science and technology. You can learn more about her work in this video from the Royal Institution.

Many of the Faculty are also passionately committed to sharing understanding of their research areas through talks to general audiences. Cambridge mathematicians regularly feature as speakers for the annual LMS Popular Lectures - examples include Dr Julia Gog's LMS Popular Lecture on 'Epidemics and Viruses', and Dr Tadashi Tokieda's LMS Popular Lecture on 'Toy Models'. Swapping lecture theatres for tents, Professor Ben Allanach, Dr Helen Mason and Professor David Tong are among the Cambridge mathematicians and physicists to explore the fundamental workings of the universe at music festivals around the UK. (The picture at the top shows Helen Mason talking at the Secret Garden Party.)