Public Engagement

Since we came down from the trees—possibly to collect semi-rotting, semi-fermenting, mildly inebriating fruits that had tumbled down from overladen branches—humankind (or whatever it was in its various stages of anthropological development) has been learning and innovating to solve the challenges that have faced it.  From the creation of fire to the production of nuclear energy, from throwing spears to flying in aeroplanes, from the establishment of farming communities and the selective breeding of crops and animals to genetically modifying organisms, from supplying clean water and building sewerage systems to building vast, interconnected, international power networks, from the horse-drawn plough to automation…

With every solution, with every step in our evolution, we have come face to face, often threateningly so, with a new set of challenges—and opportunities.  In this age, the challenges that face us are very real and very stark and they affect the whole of humanity.  We are no longer isolated pockets of cultures and civilisations, but this, if exploited, has the potential to be the greatest opportunity that’s ever been within our grasp.

To solve the problems that are here, today, we need scientists and engineers and technologists and medics and mathematicians.  And yes—we need the others too: the historians, the linguists, the archaeologists, the agriculturalists, the builders, the lawyers, the philosophers, the sociologists… In fact, we need everyone who is passionate about what they do and why they do it, who have the curiosity to ask questions of all that makes up our environment, who have the courage to explore the limits of their mind, the imagination to search for ideas in the most unexpected of places—and, most of all, the willingness to collaborate with others…

I ended up choosing to study maths, almost at the last minute, due to the enthusiasm of my teachers (and an inability to decide between history and chemistry).  I am still doing maths because of the beauty and the power of the subject.  As my teachers made me aware, I want to spread an awareness of that beauty and power to others.  Whether that’s the people of tomorrow, who have to live with the consequences of today, or the general public, possibly brought up with a saddening antipathy towards and misunderstanding and fear of mathematics.

I want to tell you about what it can do, what it can describe, how it’s relevant to your life and what you might find if you just put on your boots and start walking…

Details about the various public engagement projects I’ve been involved in can be found by clicking on the captions below: