Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

Museum of Mathematics sought

MathematicsIt’s hard not to write about things Scottish, or not Scottish, without sounding like some sort of Scottish Nationalist, especially if one is enthusiastic about them.

However, just for the record, I don’t belong to that particular group, nor do I ever wish to be associated with any politically motivated agenda – but then again, I can’t avoid being hijacked occasionally.

This has some relevance, since I recently read about plans to have a ‘museum of mathematics’ established in the UK. Realistically, that means it will be established in England, many miles away from me, even if it represents UK mathematics, and this is simply for reasons of practically – it needs to put ‘bums on seats’, and that would not happen if it was located north of the border.

Looking at a list of Scottish mathematicians, I think there was only a handful of names I recognised offhand, and amongst those, probably only James Clark Maxwell would be familiar to the general public, and some of the others (including Maxwell) would probably be more readily recognised if introduced as physicists or scientists, rather than mathematicians.

Those behind the project are aiming to raise £50 million for the venture, and speak of needing £10 million just to get the venture off the ground, so it is looking for serious money to both start and maintain its operation, and with Scotland’s dismal record of its Science Centres – which had to shed staff and depend on subsidies to stay open – and the commercial venture of The Big Idea attraction in Irvine (which reputedly never attracted sufficient numbers or revenue to break even) – I would not even be so foolish as to even suggest such a museum be floated here.

Successful maths museums have already been established in other countries, such as the Mathematikum in Giessen, Germany, which first opened in 2002 and now attracts 150,000 visitors a year. This year will also see the opening of The Museum of Mathematics in New York, which began planning in 2008 and received funding from the likes of Google and some hedge funds.

Notably, the proposers have already rejected money-saving proposals such as opening within an existing, related science museum, as the say this would ultimately lead to the mathematical aspect being sidelined or absorbed over time, and I agree.


CultureLab: Mathematics, looking for a good home

Rather, I’d just like to raise the profile amongst readers who might never even have heard of the project otherwise, should they wish to offer it any sort of support or encouragement.

In particular, with the Scottish Government’s eternal drive for tourism, I’d like to think that someone somewhere within its hallowed walls is already organising potential locations for MathsWorldUK to hold the sort of road-shows it mentions in its publicity.

We are, after all, supposed to firing up a new generation of children to be interested in science, technology, and engineering – and none of those happen without mathematics.

I remember well one of my first lectures, where the lecturer looked at the hall full of new students, and congratulated us on our choice of course, being the only one that also included four years of mathematics.

I have to admit that I have forgotten more mathematics than I ever learned, and of the theory, little was of use at work, and even less when the PC came to power – but then again, you still have to know about the subject before you can apply it, even if a lump of silicon is actually going to do the hard work.

I hope this idea does float, as it does fill a gap, and I hope the planned road-shows materialise too.


Seven equations that rule your world – physics-math – 13 February 2012 – New Scientist


February 7, 2012 - Posted by | Appeal, Civilian | , , , , ,

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