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New Simonyi Chair appointed - Comments

GordonYKWong's Avatar Comment 1 by GordonYKWong

And the heir apparent is found. Long live the Chair for the Public Understanding of Science.

Tue, 28 Oct 2008 19:51:00 UTC | #259859

StephenP's Avatar Comment 2 by StephenP

Another atheist, excellent choice, thoughrourly enjoyed "The Story of Maths" on BBC4.

Tue, 28 Oct 2008 19:58:00 UTC | #259863

LeeC's Avatar Comment 3 by LeeC

Good luck... Not a name I know yet, but hope to hear more soon.

Tue, 28 Oct 2008 20:19:00 UTC | #259874

theantitheist's Avatar Comment 4 by theantitheist

This guy has got his job cut out .......

Making Maths interesting and getting people to understand p-adic Lie groups, model theory, algebraic geometry and analytic methods!!

Bloody hell, that stuff is as far beyond me as the American VP role is as beyond Palin.

All I can say is good luck, you'll bloody well need it.

Tue, 28 Oct 2008 20:23:00 UTC | #259877

mmurray's Avatar Comment 5 by mmurray

Another atheist, .

Where did you find that?

The TV programmes haven't made it out here yet. Looks like the BitTorrent Shop again.


Tue, 28 Oct 2008 21:00:00 UTC | #259888

Cartomancer's Avatar Comment 6 by Cartomancer

A Wadham man in the driving seat at last!

Tue, 28 Oct 2008 21:17:00 UTC | #259892

mmurray's Avatar Comment 7 by mmurray

A Wadham man in the driving seat at last!

And a mathematician - what more could you want!


Tue, 28 Oct 2008 21:47:00 UTC | #259899

helen sotiriadis's Avatar Comment 8 by helen sotiriadis

those are pretty big shoes he has to fill.

Tue, 28 Oct 2008 21:52:00 UTC | #259901

LeeC's Avatar Comment 9 by LeeC

7. Comment #273551 by mmurray
And a mathematician - what more could you want!

... A physicist.

I missed the bit where maths became science.

Science uses maths – but does that make maths science.

There said it - the question has been asked.

I will now run for cover...


Tue, 28 Oct 2008 22:01:00 UTC | #259904

beebhack's Avatar Comment 11 by beebhack

Good news, I think. I've been enjoying his History of Maths on BBC4. During the one I watched last night he declared his atheism very clearly. He seems to be a decent trencherman, too -- he obviously enjoys a drink. He may well be fun.

Tue, 28 Oct 2008 22:55:00 UTC | #259922

flibble's Avatar Comment 12 by flibble

Congratulations to Marcus. A good choice. I too have been enjoying The History of Maths on BBC4 (although of course it has tended to skip over anything requiring too much in the way of real mathematical knowledge). I also enjoyed "The music of the primes". I hadn't heard of his new book.

Tue, 28 Oct 2008 23:00:00 UTC | #259923

Disbelief's Avatar Comment 13 by Disbelief

Another atheist

How could you hold the chair for the public understanding of science and not be an atheist?

For atheist read, anti theist, non religious, naturalist, etc etc

Tue, 28 Oct 2008 23:03:00 UTC | #259924

HourglassMemory's Avatar Comment 14 by HourglassMemory

Wow! Now it's the time for a Mathematician.
Only recently have I been able to really get into the fun of mathematics, thanks to a teacher and the way I'm tackling the issue alone, at home.
Finally, the strange symbols are talking to me. Now I get it.

Let's hope Marcus does for me in the field of Mathematics, the same Dawkins did for me on Evolutionary Theory and science in general.
I'm only now starting to get into maths. Let's see where my mind goes with the help of Sautoy.

To a lot of people out there, this is just another guy doing 'another' show on Maths.
But I really do watch these people as teachers who are talking to me. They really do influence how I deal with particular fields. if they are excited about it, they often contaminate me.
I'm very glad I still this child-like characteristic of being infected with people passions. However, it's something that disables me from chosing a career at the moment.
I've said this to my current maths teacher and she says I'm rare.

All I can say is "Thank you very much!" to Dawkins and now say "Please do come in!" to Sautoy.

Tue, 28 Oct 2008 23:03:00 UTC | #259925

Laurie Fraser's Avatar Comment 15 by Laurie Fraser

A great thing to have a mathematician in the chair! The prince of subjects, IMO.

Tue, 28 Oct 2008 23:38:00 UTC | #259929

oasis-al-reason's Avatar Comment 16 by oasis-al-reason ...he insists he won't be pursuing his predecessor's anti-religious agenda. "I'm bracing myself for people asking me whether I believe in god. I'm an atheist, but for me the important thing is the wonder of science. There are so many exciting things to talk about. My focus is going to be very much on the science and less on religion."

Well as he is not a CofE Reverend or something and so the Oxford Uni won't suffer the same embarrassment as the Royal Society.

Wed, 29 Oct 2008 00:00:00 UTC | #259932

DalaiDrivel's Avatar Comment 17 by DalaiDrivel

Hopefully, he can eat a little (well, a lot) more into John Lennox's credibility.

Because Lennox won't even shut up after hearing Victor Stenger explain how his models of the universe allow for life even with different constants.

Fine tuning, my ass, thank you.

Wed, 29 Oct 2008 00:02:00 UTC | #259933

nag73's Avatar Comment 18 by nag73

Never mind all his qualifications, he's an Arsenal supporter and that's the most important point.

Wed, 29 Oct 2008 00:11:00 UTC | #259936

dochmbi's Avatar Comment 19 by dochmbi


I feel the same way! I have so many interests and passions and am good at so many things, it's hard to find something I'd like to stick to...

Wed, 29 Oct 2008 00:29:00 UTC | #259937

Rawhard Dickins's Avatar Comment 20 by Rawhard Dickins

How about a chair for the public debunking of mythology?

The science education approach, (despite great efforts) hasn't seemed to work too well yet.

Wed, 29 Oct 2008 00:31:00 UTC | #259938

Stormkahn's Avatar Comment 21 by Stormkahn

Awesome, Grats Marus and love the series!

Wed, 29 Oct 2008 00:40:00 UTC | #259942

mmurray's Avatar Comment 22 by mmurray

Hi LeeC

I missed the bit where maths became science.

I did wonder about the same thing. But here is Simonyi's manifesto.

Finally,‘ science’ here means not only the natural and mathematical sciences but also the history of science and the philosophy of science as well. However, preference should be given to specialties which express or achieve their results mainly by symbolic manipulation, such as Particle physics, Molecular biology, Cosmology, Genetics, Computer science, Linguistics, Brain research, and, of course Mathematics. The reason for this is more than a personal predilection. Symbolic expression enables the highest degree of abstraction and thence the utilization of powerful mathematical and data processing tools ensure tremendous progress. At the same time the very means of success tends to isolate the scientists from the lay audience and prevents the communication of the results. Considering the profoundly vital interdependence between the society at large and the scientific world, the dearth of effective information flow is positively dangerous.

So maths is in.


Wed, 29 Oct 2008 01:11:00 UTC | #259948

Szkeptik's Avatar Comment 23 by Szkeptik

A good choice indeed. School subculture has became so anti-math that we really need someone to stand behind the geeks.

Wed, 29 Oct 2008 01:25:00 UTC | #259951

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 24 by Steve Zara

Anyone involved in the public understanding of science these days is going to have to be prepared to confront religion. This is from a Guardian interview with de Sautoy:

"I understand Richard's point, there are great fears about the power of the intelligent design movement in America, but my focus is mainly on trying to excite people about science, why I do it, how it impacts on your life."

I am a bit concerned about the "but" in the statement. Increasingly in the UK, you can't excite people about science unless you confront the power of religious thinking.

I would have preferred someone with a history of more directly confronting unreason.

Wed, 29 Oct 2008 01:27:00 UTC | #259952

Laurie Fraser's Avatar Comment 25 by Laurie Fraser

Comment #273604 by Steve Zara

Steve, I don't think he'll have a choice. In his position, he'll have to be proactive, of course, but will find himself reacting to the ever-increasing promotion of ignorance.

Wed, 29 Oct 2008 01:32:00 UTC | #259954

decius's Avatar Comment 26 by decius

I have to agree with LeeC, I share Steve's preoccupation, plus I can't see how one can hope to entice the layman with something as abstract complicated and boring as mathematics. To me this looks like a weird choice.

It would be interesting to hear Richard's opinion.


Wed, 29 Oct 2008 01:36:00 UTC | #259957

Vinelectric's Avatar Comment 27 by Vinelectric

A new avatar to celebrate...

"The Story Of Mathematics" is absolutely brilliant !

Wed, 29 Oct 2008 01:38:00 UTC | #259959

Mr Blue Sky's Avatar Comment 28 by Mr Blue Sky

Re #27 I have to say that it was a great series but with some very annoying features such as presenting a concept and leaving it in mid air, annoying soundtracks at high volume and a distinct lack of any even basic maths. Some good visual aids but in all a very broad brush history program. However, as an introduction for the Professor probably a good start. He can now put some flesh on the bones he revealed. He could turn out to be a very good successor. I hope so.

Wed, 29 Oct 2008 01:47:00 UTC | #259962

mmurray's Avatar Comment 29 by mmurray

It will be interesting to see if he just explains mathematics and what mathematics does or uses mathematics to explain science. I haven't seen any of his TV programs as they haven't made it to Australia.

As Richard Feynman said:

"To those who do not know mathematics it is difficult to get across a real feeling as to the beauty, the deepest beauty, of nature."


Wed, 29 Oct 2008 01:48:00 UTC | #259963

Yorker's Avatar Comment 30 by Yorker

Marcus is a good choice in my opinion, he's already accustomed to TV and in his latest series, described himself as a non-believer.

Dawkins did a good job and I'm sure de Sautoy will although in a different way. Keep in mind the job is about promoting science to the public, not confronting religion or unreason. His stance on religion may or may not play a part in the way he goes about the job, it's not important.

Wed, 29 Oct 2008 01:57:00 UTC | #259965