Maths: Sixth Form Students Visit University College London
17 Sixth Form mathematicians travelled to University College London with Dr Carroll and I yesterday to hear five lectures given on a variety of mathematical topics.
In the first lecture we learned about Professor Sir Andrew Wiles’ 30 year quest to prove Fermat’s Last Theorem.
The second lecture the idea of infinity was explored and the students were surprised to learn that there was a second infinity, bigger than the first, and then were further amazed to learn that not only was there an infinite number of infinities, each bigger than the one which preceded it, but that for any given infinity one could always create a new, even bigger one!
Lecture three started off on familiar ground, Prime Numbers, proving that there was no such thing as the “biggest” prime number, which led on to the latest attempts to solve the Twin Prime Conjecture.
Lecture four started off by looking at mathematical techniques for optimizing real life situations such as railway timetables which rather surprisingly led to a result relating to a 43 dimensional solid with 86 faces.
Mr Wilkinson at work...
The fifth and final lecture was on encryption, which again took an unexpected twist when it led to questions of politics and morality of government monitoring of internet traffic.
We returned to school not only with our mathematical horizons broadened, but with a greater feeling for the human side of mathematics and the dedication and passion of the mathematicians who have gone before us in establishing the results we use today.