UCD Maths Week Ireland Events 2012


Posted 17 October 2012

UCD celebrates Maths Week with tales of Climate Change, Encryption and Human Intuition

Students and teachers from 18 secondary schools visited UCD on Tuesday 16 October 2012 to celebrate National Maths Week. The event kicked off with a talk by Dr Andrew Parnell from the UCD School of Mathematical Sciences entitled “Climate Change and Diagnosing Cancer: How Maths Rules Everything.”

Dr Parnell illustrated how the same Mathematical equations can be used to predict future climate changes and to determine the probability a person might have cancer. “It was great to see Astra Hall packed with students and it gave us the opportunity to demonstrate how Mathematics is at the core of so many Science subjects covering areas as diverse as computing to biomedical research,” said Dr Parnell.

Professor Gary McGuire from the UCD School of Mathematical Sciences and the Claude Shannon Institute spoke about the Maths in Obama’s mobile. He explained how encryption can be used to encrypt text messages and voice conversations. Then, enlisting the help of two students in the audience, Professor McGuire demonstrated modular arithmetic and showed some examples of factorization.

He also explained how “Encryption is at the basis of so many aspects of life we take for granted, from booking tickets to online banking and even texting.”

The last talk of the morning was given by Professor Pádraig Cunningham from the UCD School of Computer Science and Informatics on “Randomness and Human Intuition”. Professor Cunningham illustrated how our perception of randomness is rarely random. He showed some research data from UCD that analysed the winning numbers from the Lotto.

“Although we can’t improve our chance of winning the Lotto, we can improve our chance of not having to share a prize,” Professor Cunningham explained from the research results. His talk ended with a demonstration of the probability that out of 30 people at least two would share a birthday. By the time Professor Cunningham reached the tenth audience member, two of the students were birthday twins!