I couldn’t call myself a mathematician if I didn’t celebrate Pi Day. Let’s take a moment to appreciate this mathematical constant for… staying constant. Today’s hero came by a hair’s breadth of being changed to 3.2.
Since ancient times mathematicians had been trying to “square the circle”, so given a circle construct a square with the same area, using just a compass and straightedge. Unfortunately for all these fame-seeking mathematicians and amateurs, in 1882 the task was proven impossible. And the culprit was… π.
To square the circle we’d have to construct a square root of π. However, a German mathematician Carl Louis Ferdinand von Lindemann proved that π is a transcendental number, which means it’s not a root of any polynomial with rational coefficients.
Growing up I don’t think I was actually aware of the gender gap in STEM. Having gone to an all girls school, I grew up in this idealistic bubble where I thought I could do anything and be anything I wanted. I am glad for this bubble as it didn’t hold me back from trying to be the best at Science, Maths and Computing. However in yr10 this bubble was popped. No it wasn’t popped by some boy saying he was better than me or a teacher telling me girls couldn’t be engineers.
Rewind almost five months ago. Our first session of the course was in full swing and we were tasked with writing a list of words we associate with science. We began with the words familiar to us from scientific practice: experiment, process, evidence, research… But as soon as we had exhausted these words and their synonyms, we discovered new words: funding, insecurity, power, hierarchical…It became clear to us that we had delved deeper into what we felt scientific culture was like.
You picked Imperial to become a scientist, engineer or a medical doctor. What do these careers have in common? You’ll need to write a lot: scientific papers, grant applications, lecture notes, popular science articles. Unfortunately, university curricula lack writing courses, so we end up with thousands of unreadable scientific papers. In my research I’ve chosen some mathematical methods just because the authors made them easy to understand; nobody has time or energy to look for interesting science hiding behind word clutter.
I’m a mathematician, not a writer, and my writing is far from perfect. Let me share five tips to improve your writing so that you can learn from my mistakes.
My plan for today was to publish an article about π, to celebrate the International Pi Day (check out my last year’s post). Unfortunately we all woke up to hear very sad news: Stephen Hawking has died.
Only yesterday I and my office mate J. had an interesting conversation about the importance of social skills in academia. We came to the conclusion that while the stereotypical maths or physics professor is, for lack of a better word, a weirdo, such scientists are more likely than not to lose the battle for academic jobs. Research is all about collaboration and nobody wants to have rude or antisocial colleagues.