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From football to flocks to fighting – how mathematicians model it all

Publication date: Jun 26, 2008 10:56:52 AM

How should English football be scheduled over the Christmas period? What are the dynamics behind street-gang behaviour and insurgent warfare in Iraq? What can flocks of birds and swarms of bees tell us about managing unmanned vehicles? These and other questions will be tackled by mathematicians at the European Consortium for Mathematics in Industry (ECMI) 2008 conference hosted at UCL (University College London) from Monday 30 June to Friday 4 July 2008.

The five-day ECMI 2008 conference, which journalists are welcome to attend, will feature a range of leading speakers from industry, science and government. Mini-symposia will cover mathematical research on medicine, sports, finance, energy and transport, amongst other topics.

Talks will include:

  • Andrea Bertozzi (University of California Los Angeles) will explain how the modelling of natural swarms can offer insights into the design and tracking of unmanned vehicles.
  • Miguel Moscoso (Universidad Carlos III de Madrid) will discuss new techniques such as the use of microwaves to detect early-stage breast cancer, using numerical experiments to explore their future potential.

Mini-symposia will include:

  • Mathematical modelling in sport (MS34), where academics will present research on the mathematics of soccer spread betting, batting strategies in test cricket and the scheduling of English football over the Christmas period.
  • Mathematics and social networks (MS04), where researchers will look at the dynamics underlying events in Iraq, street-gangs and online games.
  • The social life of mathematics (MS31), looking at the influence of media representations of mathematics in films such as A Beautiful Mind, Good Will Hunting and The Da Vinci Code.
  • Global system dynamics and policies (MS33), exploring how mathematics can support decision- and policy-making, how predictions from modelling might cause society to change some its actions, and how human ecological systems ranging from small tribes to today’s global society might best be modelled.

Professor Steven Bishop, UCL Department of Mathematics and chair of the mini-symposium on global system dynamics, says: “Although most of us recognise the benefits of mathematics, for many it still sends a shiver down their spine. However, decisions made by politicians and business leaders increasingly involve factors outside our local environment which require a range of supporting techniques, sometimes on a global scale. Decision-makers need to assess and manage risks, and then convince the public that a certain course of action is best. But how can they predict the consequences of changes in policy? And can the public trust these predictions? The answers lie in mathematics.”

Trevor Maynard, Manager of Emerging Risks at Lloyds, says: "Lloyds is delighted to host a session on finance and risk at the ECMI 2008 conference. Lloyds fully recognise the importance of mathematics in the insurance industry and have been working through the Lighthill Risk Network to bring knowledge from academia to business experts. The conference is another good example of knowledge sharing."

Notes for Editors

1. The ECMI conference will run from Monday 30 June 2008 to Friday 4 July 2008 at University College London. More information, including details of the talks and mini-symposiums, can be found at http://www.ecmi2008.org/.

2. Journalists who wish to attend the event or find out more should contact conference organiser Arren Ariel on +44 (0)20 7209 4772, e-mail a.ariel@ucl.ac.uk or Jenny Gimpel at the UCL Media Relations Office on tel: +44 (0)20 7679 9726, mobile +44 (0)7747 565 056, out of hours +44 (0)7917 271 364, e-mail: j.gimpel@ucl.ac.uk.