UCD Astra Hall was packed with students and teachers from over 25 schools to celebrate National Maths Week at UCD on 12 October 2010. Talks this year covered a range of topics from the maths behind the iPod, to social networking, ocean waves and human intuition.
The event opened with one of the most popular talks on the Maths behind the iPod by Professor Gary McGuire. Professor McGuire is Director of the Claude Shannon Institute, where research is ongoing into new and improved methods of encryption.
"Encryption of private data is becoming very commonplace in today's world, and the methods of doing encryption are based on geometry, algebra and number theory," Professor McGuire explained.
From Left: Mr Ian Smith (Castleknock College), Ms Michelle Kelly (Coláiste Chiaráin), back row Mr Jim McElroy (Castleknock College), Dr Neil Hurley from the UCD School of Computer Science and Informatics, Ms Regina Watson (Coláiste Chiaráin), Professor Frédéric Dias from the UCD School of Mathematical Sciences.
A new talk this year on the fascinating world of ocean waves was delivered by Professor Frédéric Dias from the UCD School of Mathematical Sciences. Professor Dias is starting a collaboration with the company Aquamarine Power that has developed a product called Oyster which produces electricity from ocean wave energy.
"Water waves can have destructive power but they can also be a source of renewable energy, especially in Ireland, which is the country with the best wave climate in the world, " explained Professor Dias. "In the talk we show how mathematics is used to describe the whole life of a tsunami, from generation to inundation. We also show how some recent collaboration between mathematicians and physicists has led to a better understanding of freak waves. Finally we show how urgently the challenging field of ocean wave energy conversion needs mathematical modeling."
The theme of this series of talks is maths in our every day lives and Dr Neil Hurley from the UCD School of Computer Science and Informatics gave the students a behind the scenes look at the Maths behind Googling and Social Networking. Dr Hurley is one of the Principal Investigators in the SFI-funded Clique strategic research cluster that is investigating large-scale social network analysis.
“Euler's discoveries led to modern graph theory which is actively used to find information from the large social networks that are being created today," Dr Hurley explained. "This is big business as companies learn more about how potential customers communicate and even what their likes and dislikes are."
Due to the numbers of students on the waiting list, Dr Neil Hurley agreed to give his talk for a second time and he was joined by Professor Pádraig Cunningham, also from the UCD School of Computer Science and Informatics. Professor Cunnigham's talk was about randomness and human intuition.
From Left: Dr Neil Hurley and Professor Pádraig Cunningham from the UCD School of Computer Science and Informatics
"Human intuition about randomness and probability is not always very good. Even the most rational mathematicians find it hard to accept that last week's lotto numbers are just as likely to come up this week as other numbers," Professor Cunningham explained. "Randomness is not quite as random as we expect it to be. Winning streaks and loosing streaks are put down to changes in form when often they can be explained by pure chance. It is informative to take a coin, toss it 50 times and record the longest sequence of heads or tails - you will be surprised."