UCL News


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

26 June 2008

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 from 30 June to 4 July 2008.


The conference 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.

Talks will include:

  • Andrea Bertozzi (University of California Los Angeles) on how the modelling of natural swarms can offer insights into the design and tracking of unmanned vehicles
  • Miguel Moscoso (Universidad Carlos III de Madrid) on 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, 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, where researchers will look at the dynamics underlying events in Iraq, street gangs and online games
  • the social life of mathematics, 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, 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 Mathematics), 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, requiring 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."