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Geometry in the Real World - Maths Inspiration DVD

Geometry in the Real World - Maths Inspiration DVD


In response to huge demand, we filmed a series of Maths Inspiration for release on DVD. All these DVDs feature friends of Maths Gear  and maths people we love!

This disc is all about architecture, space science and triangles.

Ages 14-17

Architecture – Shaped by Maths
Paul Shepherd reveals the surprising uses that architects and engineers find for chains, soap bubbles and Belgian techno music to help them design everything from bridges to football stadiums.

Maths Reaches the Stars
Lucie Green shares her passion for space science, and shows that even GCSE geometry can help us discover more about the sun.

Approximately 90 minutes.

You can also get the entire box set here for just £50. That's a saving of \(16.\overline{6}\%\).

The Presenters

Paul Shepherd - Architectural Analyst

Lucie Green - Presenter of BBC's Sky at Night and Space Scientist

What Paul and Lucie have to say about learning maths.


What did you think of Maths when you were at school?
I was always good at Maths (and Physics) - mainly because it didn’t involve having to remember anything.  To me school Maths was just like solving puzzles.

Which was your favourite bit of Maths at school?
I did have a soft spot for algebra, along the lines of “Here is an equation, rearrange it to find x” type questions. 

Is there any bit of maths that you don’t like?
Integration.  I hate it.  And I must have done something terrible in a former life because now I have to teach it to engineering students!

Has maths ever helped you get out of a difficult situation?
Not that I can think of.  But I am sure it has helped me to not get IN to a difficult situation in the first place.  I do tend to have a more realistic sense of probability than those around me.

Has maths ever helped you win anything?
Maths helps me ‘win’ two pounds every week, by convincing me NOT to play the lottery.

What did you do at university?
I studied Maths, watched a lot of Neighbours, learned to play table football and drink lager (sometimes all at the same time).

Actually it was Maths and Computing for the first year and then I had to choose one to study for two more years.  I chose to drop the Computing because I knew it was something I could do in my spare time and could always go back to.  Maths at University is very very deep and theoretical and you are not really able to get anywhere near such a good grounding in it by treating it as a hobby.

I also did a PhD in Structural Fire Engineering, which involved building a full-scale eight-storey building, covering it with instrumentation and setting it on fire.  I ran mathematical models of its behaviour on the computer to predict how it would collapse, and the tests were there to prove the models right (and improve them when they weren’t).  In fact our models helped us win the “How much will the beam have sagged by after half an hour” sweepstake, so you can add that as a Yes to the question above.

What’s your favourite number?
I am always puzzled by this question.  Why should we have one favourite number from the uncountable infinitude that exists?  It depends on the situation surely?  Do linguists have a favourite letter?  Numbers are only really fun when they are used in combination. Pi is fairly fun, and used a lot in engineering.  ‘e’ pops up now and again.  But I’d probably settle on ‘1’ since you can make lots of numbers by combining 1.

What do you do APART from maths?
Well, Engineering, obviously, with a little bit of Architecture thrown in for good measure.  This mainly manifests itself through Lego with the help of my 4-year old son (current project is an airport). If I manage to get any spare time I like to spend it playing with hobby electronics (current project is a RaspberryPi powered internet-radio for the bathroom).

If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
I have always desperately wanted to visit Space and this is starting to look feasible within my lifetime, if only I could find the cash.  Whip-round anyone?  I have a birthday coming up…

If you could give one maths tip to a 15 year old, what would it be?
“Never eat anything bigger than your head”.
Oh, sorry, just spotted the “maths” bit in the question.  How about “Always read the question carefully before answering”?

What was the most unusual place you ever gave a maths talk?
In 40 degree heat in the middle of Nevada’s Blackrock Desert, in between launching rockets with NASA.  Beat that, Brian Cox!

What’s your favourite maths-related song?
Everything is maths-related if you think hard enough.  If I had to choose I’d probably go for the all-time rock classic by Bryan Adams before he lost all credibility with his Robin Hood related shame. “i got my 1st Real 6 String.  Bought it at the 5 + Dim…”

Before the Maths Inspiration DVD, what was your biggest claim to fame?
I had my brain exhibited in a Royal Society exhibition.  Not my actual brain, obviously.  But a 3D-printed replica I made using the data from an MRI scanner.


What did you think of maths when you were at school?
I was more focused on physics than maths. I was actually told by my school that I wouldn’t need maths for university and so I didn’t take it at A-level to make way for doing a bit more science and also to be able to study art. I later found out that you do need A-level maths in order to study physics at university and so I actually did my maths A-level during a gap-year before I went to university.

Which was your favourite bit of maths at school?
Trigonometry always amazed me. By knowing a few things about the real word you could do some strange calculations and suddenly know how big something else was even though you had never actually measured it directly.

Is there any maths that you don’t like?
I prefer to do maths where I can see the point. I know a lot of maths seems useless at first and will later be really handy, but I still struggle to keep focussed before I see how I am going to apply it.

Has maths ever helped you get out of a difficult situation?
Part of my job has been operating telescopes on board satellites that observe the Sun. I always use maths to make sure the telescope is pointed at the right part of the Sun and takes the right observation for the right amount of time. If I get this wrong I could damage a very expensive telescope – maths has stopped me from getting into difficult situations!

Has maths ever helped you win anything?
Not win as such, but without proving I knew enough maths I wouldn’t have the amazing physics job I have now, which does mean I get to fly all around the world to go to science conferences. So I guess maths has won me a few around-the-world trips!

What did you do at university?
I did a physics degree at the University of Sussex, down in Brighton. It was a physics course with an element of astrophysics and by the end of it I had tried to turn the University’s normal telescope into a solar telescope. It didn’t work very well, but it lead to me doing my Solar Physics PhD at UCL, which is where I still work.

What’s your favourite number?
15,000,000. This is the temperature at the centre of the Sun and the most important number in the Solar System. At this temperature the hydrogen in the centre of the Sun fuses together to form helium. This releases energy that we ultimately receive in the form of sunlight which we depend on for our survival. 

What do you like APART from maths?
Lots! I enjoy visiting art galleries, travelling and astronomy.

If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
I got to go to Svalbard with the Sky at Night when we were filming an episode about the Transit of Venus. It’s a small island in the artic circle and for months in a row the summer sun never sets. I was there for a week and had constant sunlight the whole time – it’s amazing to see that much of the sun!

If you could give one maths tip to a 15 year old, what would it be?
Study maths! I thought I could get away with doing less maths but I had to just catch up later. Because you never know what jobs or studying you may do later, it is best to learn as much maths while you’re still at school to give yourself the best options after.

What was the most unusual place you ever gave a maths talk?
I gave a talk about the Sun (and maths!) before a screening of the film Sunshine at the British Film Institute. There was a huge crowd to see the film and I got to meet and talk with the director, Danny Boyle.

What’s your favourite maths-related song?
Bjork - Hidden Place (Math Mix)

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