Over the past 60 years since bird feeders first became commercially available, humans have been changing bird populations across the UK. The overall effect has generally been positive, with an increase in the prevalence of Wood Pigeons, and a shift in the migration pattern of Eurasian Blackcaps, but as with most changes, there is a word of warning… Live interview with BBC Radio Oxford.
A new record flash stretching all the way from Texas to Kansas was discovered recently in data from the GOES-16 spacecraft, though the record may soon be broken… Live interview with BBC Radio Oxford.
Scientists at ETH Zurich have calculated the number of worms in the top 6 inches of soil across the Earth, and the answer is more than the number of stars in the observable universe… Live interview with BBC Oxford.
Super-deep diamonds found in Brazil act as time capsules from the early years of the Earth’s formation and could give important clues to how life began on our planet… Live interview with BBC Radio Oxford.
Image credit: Suzette Timmerman
It may sound like an easy question but the answer will surprise you! Live interview with BBC Radio Oxford.
Image credit: Thurner Hof
Dr Tom Crawford joined the Hall in October 2018 as a Stipendiary Lecturer in Mathematics, but he is far from your usual mathematician…
Tom’s research investigates where river water goes when it enters the ocean. A simple question, you might first think, but the complexity of the interaction between the lighter freshwater and the heavier saltwater, mixed together by the tides and wind, and pushed ‘right’ along the coast due to the Earth’s rotation, is anything but. The motivation for understanding this process comes from recent attempts to clean-up our oceans. Rivers are the main source of pollution in the ocean, and therefore by understanding where freshwater ends up in the ocean, we can identify the area’s most susceptible to pollution and mitigate for its effects accordingly.
To better understand this process, Tom conducts experiments in the lab and has conducted fieldwork expeditions to places as far-flung as Antarctica. What the southern-most continent lacks in rivers, it makes up for in meltwater from its plethora of ice sheets. The ultimate process is the same – lighter freshwater being discharged into a heavier saltwater ocean – and as the most remote location on Earth the influence of humans is at its least.
If you thought that a mathematician performing experiments and taking part in fieldwork expeditions was unusual, then you haven’t seen anything yet. Tom is also very active in outreach and public engagement as the author of the award-winning website tomrocksmaths.com which looks to entertain, excite and educate about all thing’s maths. The key approach to Tom’s work is to make entertaining content that people want to engage with, without necessarily having an active interest in maths. Questions such as ‘how many ping-pong balls would it take to raise the Titanic from the ocean floor?’ and ‘what is the blast radius of an atomic bomb?’ peak your attention and curiosity meaning you have no choice but to click to find out the answer!
Tom is also the creator of the ‘Funbers’ series which was broadcast on BBC Radio throughout 2018 telling you the ‘fun facts you didn’t realise you’ve secretly always wanted to know’ about a different number every week. From the beauty of the ‘Golden Ratio’ to the world’s unluckiest number (is it really 13?) via the murderous tale of ‘Pythagoras’ Constant’, Funbers is a source of endless entertainment for all ages and mathematical abilities alike.
And now for the big finale. If you are familiar with Tom’s work, you may know where we are heading with this, but if not, strap yourself in for the big reveal. Dr Tom Crawford is the man behind the ‘Naked Mathematician’ (yes you did read that correctly). To try to show that maths isn’t as serious as many people believe, to try to engage a new audience with the subject, and just to have fun, Tom regularly gives maths talks in his underwear! His ‘Equations Stripped’ series on YouTube has reached 250,000 views – that’s a quarter of a million people that have engaged with maths that may otherwise have never done so. His recent tour of UK universities saw several thousand students come to a maths lecture of their own accord to learn about fluid dynamics. It may not be to everyone’s tastes, but our current methods of trying to engage people with maths are failing, so why not try something new? This is maths, but not as you know it.
The original article published in the Aularian magazine can be found here.
Possibly my favourite science story of 2019 – scientists at the University of Liverpool conduct 3 experiments to show that caterpillars of the peppered moth see using their skin. Live interview with BBC Radio Oxford.
Image credit: Arjen van’t Hof, University of Liverpool
Following Manchester City’s penalty shootout victory over Liverpool in the Community Shield, I was asked by BBC Oxford to explain how scientists are trying to find the formula for the perfect penalty…
80% of marine pollution comes from the land via rivers, and so by understanding where river water goes, we can focus our clean-up efforts on the most susceptible areas. Live interview with BBC Radio Oxford.
Come and watch me explain my research in full detail at New Scientist Live on Friday 11th October 2019.