WMI Lockdown Masterclasses on Mathematical Thinking

During the COVID lockdown, I led three online masterclasses at Warwick on Mathematical thinking. Unfortunately, I seem to have completely lost the recordings. However, the abstracts and presentation slides are here.

Circular Forms (1930) by Robert Delaunay 

Session Three: Harmony and Dissonance

Presentation Slides 

Abstract: When certain musical notes are played together, they produce a pleasing sound and the phenomenon is called harmony. The mythical mathematician Pythagoras is reputed to have discovered a mathematical basis for this. They say he was so impressed by this discovery that he leapt to the conclusion that ‘All is Number!’ Somewhat surprisingly, scientists have elaborated on this philosophy substantially over the subsequent millennia, so that we are almost led to believe that Pythagoras was right. On the other hand, I’ve always felt a bit sorry for dissonance, that is, the so-called ‘unpleasant' combination of notes. I will explain in this talk what Pythagoras had in mind, and also make a sympathetic case for dissonance. 

The Tennis Court Oath (1791), Jacques-Louis David 

Session Two: Is Democracy Possible?

Presentation Slides 

Abstract: 'Could populism actually be good for democracy? ' Asks an article in the Guardian (11 October 2018). The author goes on to observe that 'Modern democracies all rest on a claim of popular sovereignty – the proposition that all legitimate governments grow out of the power of a people, and in some way are subject to its will. Yet when a large majority of a country’s people vehemently supports policies a critic finds abhorrent, many liberals, even avowed democrats, recoil in horror.’

In these complicated times, people of diverse political persuasions will blame democracy or the lack of it for the perceived ills of their own societies and of the international order. This class will investigate by way of a few examples the insights provided by mathematical thinking on the possibilities and limitations of democracy.

Session One: The Mathematical Matchmaker

Presentation Slides

Abstract: What kind of skills does one need in order to be a successful matchmaker? Empathy, emotional intelligence, a wide network of friends, good communication skills, wisdom in general,… those all sound good: Where is Jane Austen when you need her? But how far can we get with purely mathematical thinking? Surely, mathematics has little to say about romance! Do come and find out.