Moyal Medallist 2005

Moyal Medallist 2005

Moyal Medal

The 2005 Moyal Medallist is Dr R S (Bob) Anderssen, CSIRO Mathematical and Information Sciences.

Title: MATHEMATICS IN ACTION

Abstract:

Mathematics is in action across the breadth of human endeavours. In its broader sense, it embraces the disciplines of statistics, computer science, physics and chemistry. Sometimes, its role is crucial and deep, as in theoretical mathematical, statistical or combinatorial deliberations. More often it is straight forward and elementary, and thereby is often taken for granted. Whatever the situation, it is there. However, unlike in the physical and chemical sciences, the underlying presence of mathematics is usually of little interest to those concerned with some specific practical application, such as the optimal route for the delivery of newspapers or the decision to buy or sell shares. Their focus is the decision-making activity within which the application has arisen, not the intricacies of the problem-solving process by which the results needed for the decision are derived.

Problem-solving and mathematics are crucial for good decision-making, but decision-makers may be ignorant of the mathematical processes which produce the results that are utilized. Life would be far more complex if this was not the situation. However, mathematics is the loser in this scenario since its direct relevance to the decision-making is seldom appreciated. Clearly, this is the source of the popular view that mathematics need not be strongly supported to guarantee prosperity.

The lecture will initially review such matters using some simple examples to conceptualize some of the roles played by mathematics in problem-solving. We will then turn to the science of grain hardness, vibrating piano strings and phyllotaxis to illustrate the deeper role that mathematics plays in resolving seemingly quite elementary issues connected with important practical problems.

The talk will be followed by a complimentary light supper. All are welcome.

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