British Association for the Advancement of Science
Annual Festival of Science,
Cardiff University, 7-11 September 1998

Mathematical Sciences sessions

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
morning Language and machines Discovering mathematics by computer Medical decision making
afternoon Numeracy and the mind Mathematics applied to agriculture The mathematics and physics of music

Language and Machines

Tuesday 8 September 1998, 0930-1230

Organizer: General and Mathematical Sciences sections

Yorick Wilks,
University of Sheffield:
Human-computer conversation---where are we?

Human-computer conversation is a technology where striking developments come from ignoring received wisdoms. Researchers aim for a practical implementation of a difficult task: in effect, they ignore any theory and just `have a go'. This strategy is condemned by theorists who argue that climbing a tree cannot get one to the moon, even if it feels like a step in the right direction. This talk assesses `theory-laden' and `theory-free' approaches, and the role of competitions for the most human-seeming program.

Gordon Tucker and Robin Fawcett,
Cardiff University:
The computer generation of natural language

This talk discusses and demonstrates how a copmuter can be programmed to produce natural language, starting from the meanings to be expressed and finishing with the structures that express them.

Geoffrey Leech,
University of Lancaster:
Linguistics and the Corpus revolution

The British National Corpus---a 100-million word treasury of text-data---provides an example of how computers have brought a previously unimagined ability to study and process language in data-intensive ways. But have our minds kept up with technology?

Kim Plunkett,
University of Oxford:
Language and connectionism

Computer models in the form of artificial neural networks have been used to stimulate young children's language development. What do these models tell us about how the brain is wired-up for language and what can we learn from them about both normal and disordered language in children and adults?

Numeracy and the Mind

Tuesday 8 September 1998, 1400-1715

Organizer: Psychology and Mathematical Sciences sections

Ruth Mertens,
University of North London:
Maths on the rug: effective teaching of numeracy

This session will elaborate the Numeracy Centre concept of effective teaching of number. It will focus on what is involved in the `teaching' aspect of this model---the `on the rug' part of the title. It will describe effective strategies, particularly for dealing with the whole class or a large group and consider the classroom management issues raised.

Richard Cowan,
University of London Institute of Education:
``8th september 2098. That will be a Monday''. Is this ability a matter of arithmetic?

People identified as `calendrical calculators' answer date questions with extraordinary speed. Several have severe intellectual difficulties. Whether arithmetical ability explains their talent will be discussed in the light of recent studies.

Brian Butterworth,
University College London:
The mathematical brain

One part of our brain seems to specialised for handling numbers. Damage to it can lead to very specific deficits in calculation and in reading and writing numbers.

Ann Dowker,
University of Oxford:
Individual differences in arithmetical development: implications for early intervention

Research suggests that specific arithmetical weaknesses are quite common in children and adults and are often restricted to particular aspects of arithmetic, which can vary between individuals. Implications for a Numeracy Recovery Intervention Scheme are discussed.

Tim Miles,
University of Wales at Bangor:
Mathematical performance of dyslexics and other underachievers

Seventy-two wide-ranging mathematics items were given to 268 ten-year-old dyslexic children. They were compared both with normal achievers and with non-dyslexic underachievers. The results are discussed.

Martin Hughes,
University of Exeter:
Family numeracy---what parents can offer

There is currently much enthusiasm for Family Numeracy, or involving parents in their children's mathematics learning. But do parents teach mathematics the same way that teachers do? And how far does this matter? This talk will provide some answers to these questions.

Christopher Zeeman,
University of Oxford:
Mathematics masterclasses for thirteen-year-olds

The lecture will describe some of the material in the Mathematics Masterclasses, which began in 1980 at the Royal Institution as enrichment material for gifted thirteen-year olds and which have now spread to over 35 centres in the United Kingdom.

Mathematics applied to Agriculture

Wednesday 9 September 1998, 1400-1700

Organizer: Mathematical Sciences, Agriculture and Forestry, and Biological Sciences sections

Trudy Watt,
Wye College, University of London:
Experiments and surveys: caution and cunning with condifence

Cunning use of design and analysis methods in experiments and surveys can increase precision and decrease effort in research studies. Modern computer packages can extract the `story' from complex datasets.

John Crawford,
Scottish Crop Research Institute, Dundee:
The subterranean ecosystem

The soil microbial community is more diverse and fundamental to life on earth than a tropical forest ecosystem, yet it is little understood. Theoretcial studies of the soil environment shed a little light.

Presidential Address
Rosemary Bailey,
Queen Mary and Westfield College, University of London:
Interfering neighbours

Conclusions from agricultural experiments may be invalid if neighbours are ignored: tall sunflowers shade short ones, or pests from an infested plot spread. Mathematics helps us to design such experiments.

Discovering Mathematics by Computer

Thursday 10 September 1998, 0930-1230

Organizer: Mathematical Sciences section

Alan Cohen,
Cardiff University:
Can scientists rely on computers?

Scientists rely heavily on computers and trust the answers they obtain. Simple examples are presented in which computers give wrong answers. These examples will be re-formulated to give correct answers.

Adrian Oldknow,
Chichester Institute of Higher Education:
How anyone can make discoveries in geometry

A modern microcomputer equipped with suitable software (so-called Dynamic Geometry Systems) is the geometric explorer's equivalent of the astronomer's Hubble telescope. You just need to turn your attention to a promising place to look in order to make discoveries. But then the fun starts---can you prove your results?!

Antonia Jones,
Cardiff University:
Predicting the future

Using sunspot data this session demonstrates the advances in data analysis and smooth non-linear modelling techniques which enable the construction of accurate short range predictions for high dimensional chaotic systems.

The Mathematics and Physics of Music

Thursday 10 September 1998, 1300-1700

Organizer: Mathematical Sciences and Physics sections

Mike Gluyas and Wendy Gluyas,
Cardiff University:
Musical squares---adventures in sound

The lecture explores many exciting aspects of sound, covering the whole range from infra-sound to ultra-sound. The physical properties of sound are highlighted and the amazing capabilities of the human ear are demonstrated---together with ways in which our ears may deceive us and `deafness' may be established.

Chris Robson,
University of Leeds:
Sound as a bell

In change-ringing of bells, science meets art to produce music. Underlying it all is interesting and useful mathematics. This will be described by the lecturer and demonstrated by the audience!

Wilfrid Hodges,
Queen Mary and Westfield College, University of London:
Musical space

How a geometer sees and hears music, or (depending on your point of view) how a composer uses geometry.

Bernard Richardson,
Cardiff University:
The secrets of Stradivarius

This lecture explores the physics of sound production on the violin and reviews some of the scientific work investigating the validity of myths and folklore associated with early Italian violins.

Medical Decision Making

Friday 11 September 1998, 0930-1215

Organizer: Mathematical Sciences and Medical sections

Steve Carey,
St. Thomas' Hospital, London:
The use of decision support systems in diabetes management

Diabetes is a common disease but its management is complex: however, decision support systems can assist non-specialists to manage diabetes more effectively.

Frank Dunstan,
University of Wales College of Medicine:
Diagnosis---a matter of chance?

This talk will look at examples of the use of probability in clinical diagnosis in areas such as genetic counselling, ante-natal and cancer screening, and abdominal pain.

Barry Nix,
Cardiff University:
Drawing blood and drawing conclusions

This talk will trace the path of your sample from the surgery to the pathology lab and back, highlighting the various stages in the analysis and what decisions are involved.

R. A. Bailey

Page maintained by R. A. Bailey.