Edinburgh International Science Festival 2023
This year, the School of Mathematics once again participated in the Edinburgh International Science Festival, hosting three distinct and unique events that proved hugely popular for a variety of ages and audiences.
National Museum of Scotland Activities
Student members of the Mathematics Outreach Team, coordinated by our Mathematics Engagement Officer Francesca Iezzi, hosted a week-long booth ‘Maths: From Experiments to Proofs’ at the National Museum of Scotland. Here, through bespoke hands-on props and engaging strategy games, visitors were able to get an insight into the world of mathematics and the mind of a mathematician. Activities included:
- Having a go at the “Bridges of Konigsberg” problem- an ancient and intriguing mathematical puzzle about crossing all seven bridges in the city of Konigsberg only once. This puzzle opened the way to Graph Theory, a very active and applicable area of Mathematics which studies networks and connections.
- Playing with a “Galton Board”, a tool developed by Francis Galton to demonstrate an important statistical result called the “Central Limit Theorem”.
- Taking part in a statistical experiment investigating how the height of the Edinburgh population is distributed.
- Constructing self-supporting wooden bridges and arches, such as the “Leonardo Bridge”.
These activities gave visitors a fun and creative opportunity to see how mathematical experiments lead to proofs and how these proofs can be used to make decisions in areas such as health, energy, or transport optimisation. Not only was this event well-attended with nearly 1,000 visitors over four days, it proved a fantastic opportunity for School of Mathematics students to get involved in showcasing the wonders of Mathematics to the general public.
The School also hosted a Mathematics Showdown on the 3rd April, where five Maxwell Institute PhD students performed comedy acts that explained their research in a creative and informative way. The event was moderated by local comedian and Comedy Stand host Susan Morrison and, at the end, the audience voted for their favourite act. This event sold out and was a great opportunity for families with older children to have fun during the Edinburgh Science Festival and learn about mathematics in a novel and approachable way. Congratulations to our winner Isabella Deutsch!
Mathematical Walking Tour
Throughout the Science Festival, the School led a Mathematical Walking Tour which not only celebrated Edinburgh’s rich history of mathematical innovation, but also allowed participants to explore the city’s notable sites through the lens of mathematics. Through this tour guided by School of Maths students, participants visited famous Edinburgh sites such as the Witches’ Well, Scottish Parliament, and the World’s End and were given a mathematical puzzle to solve at each stop. Puzzles included learning how to gerrymander at the Scottish Parliament, finding the circumference of a pint glass at the World’s End pub, and learning how to use maths to escape the Witches’ Well.
Toyo Vignal, a PhD student and one of the tour guides, said of their experience: “It was good to see that people were curious and that everyone was working hard on the puzzles! For me, the highlight was to see people’s smiles and see the interest or the surprise in their eyes. For instance, everyone was really surprised to find out that the circumference of most drinking glasses is longer than how tall the glasses are.”
The tour was well received by participants, with one stating:
Your wonderfully playful and child inclusive style was so good to see and experience… it is that sort of spirit and commitment to science and maths that inspires across all generations!
If this walking tour interests you, it can also be done self-guided and is available year-round.
The School of Mathematics will surely be back at next year’s Science Festival with even more new and exciting events. You can find out more about our events throughout the year here: