Tuesday, April 22, 2014

What's the relationship between Maths & Sex? Ask Clio | TEDxSydney

It’s not what you think…

Once upon a time I liked mathematics as a subject at school. It wasn’t only about trying to master intricacies and techniques of problem solving through equations, polynomials, geometry, integration, and calculus. But it was also the way it was taught, the way I learned it. I remember my Year 10 teacher at the time came up with an innovative way for us to learn formulae and even until this day, many years on, where pure mathematics is no longer at the forefront of my thought processes in every day work, I still can remember the Quadratic formula and the Trigonometric equations. Don’t ask me what their purposes are, I can’t remember, but I can tell you from the top of my head the formulae. Why do I remember these mathematical equations? Because we use to sing the formulae in class to the melodies of the
Happy Little Vegemite Song and Frère Jacques. What this shows is if you can think a little differently and break complex things down to everyday subject matter, it will stick - people will remember it.

The TEDxSydney event happens at the Sydney Opera House on Saturday 26 April 2014, promising an inspiring and entertaining full day of Australian Ideas Worth Spreading. The day will be split into four thought-provoking themes: Passages, Blood, Enhance and Rethink.

In the 'Rethink' category of TEDxSydney speakers is a lady called Dr Clio Cresswell, a Senior Lecturer in Mathematics at The University of Sydney, who is researching the evolution of mathematical thought and the role of mathematics in society. 



Clio Cresswell, whose definition of adventure is experiencing anything new like pulling apart an engine or exploring an equation, will seek to enlighten TEDxSydney audience on Saturday with the intricacies on the relationship between mathematics and sex, and how the pattern recognition that is at the core of maths can affect your most intimate relationships.

I caught up with Dr Clio Cresswell for a brief interview before the TEDxSydney event.

1. How & why did the study of mathematics become your passion?

Mathematics shows you a side of life that you will not get through anything else. Once I saw this, I felt half full without it.

2. What was your inspiration for writing the book Maths & Sex?

By showing how the two are intimately intertwined I was convinced this would be just the ticket to get everybody worldwide to study maths immediately and as intensely as possible.

3. In one of your interviews with the ABC, you noted that maths and sex is about showing people the patterns in relationship. What are some of the scenarios that your book covers (for those who haven't read it)

All the ones that don’t require a thousand words are nicely revealed in my TEDxSydney talk this year. But you don’t need me to tell you. Look back and observe the patterns you’ve fallen into in your personal relationships. Using mathematics shows you mechanisms underlying the patterns, or some links to other patterns you wouldn’t be able to see, without doing the super sexy abstract calculations.

4. What's your funniest maths & sex joke?

There is nothing funny about maths and sex! But, how about my favourite maths joke? “What is the definition of an extroverted mathematician? One that stares at your shoes when they are speaking to you!”

My actual favourite maths joke is “98% of jail inmates eat bread, so beware of those who eat bread!” but only real nerds appear to enjoy this one as much as me!

5. Are there any interesting angles to a square root?

There are a gazillion interesting angles to square roots. The fact that the concept is one of the key reasons for the stalling of Ancient Greek mathematics has to be one! For spiritual reasons, the Ancient Greeks refused to believe in numbers that weren’t whole or fractions, so…. 1, 3, 7/2... But once armed with Pythagoras’ Theorem they kept coming up against square roots, like ... They found this very annoying. Yet, instead of accepting what they were seeing, they pretty much turned their back on numbers and put all their energy into geometry. That’s why there’s so much of it from that time. The myth goes that the Greek Hippasus was thrown at sea for proposing the reality of square roots. We have power, intrigue, and murder here – what more could you ask for!


OK, forget clairvoyants, fortune tellers and your daily horoscopes. It's now time to reflect on your personal relationships...is there a mathematical pattern that can explain a trend?  Watch out for Clio Cresswell's talk at this year's TEDx Sydney event.

Tickets for The Studio Event at the Sydney Opera House are still available from the TEDxSydney website.

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