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The Magic of Maths

2nd April 2016 · 10:30am - 3:30pm

In person | Virtual event

 The Magic of Maths

CFI UK Day Conference

The Magic of Maths: find out about the uniquely beautiful patterns hidden in Pascal’s triangle; about our (often poor) intuitive understanding of probability and the risk of events governing our lives; and about the greatest unsolved puzzles in maths!

Join us at Conway Hall – the world’s oldest Ethical Society – for a fascinating day of magical maths, uncovering some of the incredible ways numbers and patterns are woven through nature and our everyday lives.


11:0012:00 | Maths’ greatest unsolved puzzles, with Katie Steckles

While mathematicians are undoubtedly brilliant, and their work is used in all kinds of amazing scientific and technological discoveries, there are still questions they can’t answer. Every mathematical question is a puzzle to be solved, and while there’ll be plenty of puzzles for you to chew on, we’ll also discuss some of the questions that still leave mathematicians stumped – from simple-sounding number and shape problems to some truly mind-bending fundamental questions.

12:1513:15 | Pascal’s Patterns, with Professor Emma McCoy

Pascal’s triangle is named after the 17th century French mathematician Blaise Pascal. Professor McCoy will look at some of the beautiful patterns hidden in Pascal’s triangle and investigate why they appear. She will look at how Pascal’s triangle is related to diverse problems in mathematics, including examples from algebra, geometry and probability.

14:15–15:15 | The improbability principle returns: luck, lotteries, and Laura, with Professor David Hand

This talk takes a second look at the improbability principle, illustrating further popular misconceptions and failures of intuition regarding coincidences and unlikely events. It teases apart the contradiction between Borel’s law, which tells us that sufficiently improbable events are impossible, and the improbability principle, which tells us that highly improbable events happen all the time.


Katie Steckles is a mathematician based in Manchester, who gives talks and workshops on different areas of maths. She finished her PhD in 2011, and since then has talked about maths in schools, at science festivals, on BBC radio, at music festivals, as part of theatre shows and on the internet. She enjoys doing puzzles, solving the Rubik’s cube and baking things shaped like maths.

Emma McCoy is the Deputy Head of Department at Imperial College London. She is a member of the Statistics section with research interests in time series analysis and causal inference. She has worked at Imperial for over 20 years and has held various Departmental administrative roles, including that of Admissions Tutor. Professor McCoy is heavily involved in Outreach activities and regularly speaks at Higher Education careers fairs and school events.

David Hand is Emeritus Professor of Mathematics at Imperial College, London and Chief Scientific Advisor to Winton Capital Management. He is a Fellow of the British Academy, has served (twice) as President of the Royal Statistical Society, serves on the Board of the UK Statistics Authority, and chairs the Board of the UK’s Administrative Data Research Network. His recent book The Improbability Principle: Why Coincidences, Miracles, and Rare Events Happen Every Day was published in 2014. He was made OBE for services to research and innovation in 2013.

Registration is from 10:30, for an 11:00 start.

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