The pursuit of beauty in mathematics

My scientific life took me to Oxford this week, to attend Radiation Protection Week at the university’s Mathematical Institute in the modern Andrew Wiles building. In between learning about radiation I was able to drink coffee and look at displays of mathematical patterns, and crafts based on geometrical shapes. And outside the building there’s the striking Penrose paving, constructed from just two different diamond-shaped tiles, each adorned with identical circular arcs. There are various ways of arranging the tiles and matching the arcs, with each pattern being non-repeating.

All of this got me thinking about patterns and beauty, so when I left I headed off in search of patterns in Oxford. At the Natural History Museum, I found shells and also had a bit of a look at the amazing Microsculpture exhibition. In the Museum of the History of Science I saw intricate scientific and mathematical instruments. And in between I found floor tiles, brick work, roof tiles, and windows with beautiful repeating patterns, ranging from very basic to highly decorative.


Games with friends

Every now and then we have a games afternoon with friends, keen gamers (with their own gaming blog:…). But it wasn’t just our two families today, as the hosts had invited a good number of friends to play. This not only brought more people, it added to our friends’ handsome games collection. New games and new friends and a shared dinner. And a little photography added into the mix for good measure. A very good afternoon, thank you all.

An everyday event, but better

Are you watching GBBO? If so, you’ll understand why we’ve been wanting pancakes this week. As we have a rare morning today without the need to get out anywhere, or do anything, in a hurry, we decided to have pancakes for breakfast. Breakfast itself is of course nothing out of the ordinary. Cereal, toast, coffee, milk. But it can be a bit of an “every man for himself” kind of affair. We all sit huddled over our crunchy-rice-granola-pops, or whatever the cereal of choice is. This is especially true on weekdays, when daughter may be reading or watching something while she has breakfast, I may be having mine on the go while I make packed lunches and refill water bottles etc, and he will have his at work.
But this morning was different. I made some batter. We let it rest a little. He cooked it up. This is how we do pancakes. I’m better at making the batter. He’s better at cooking the pancakes. It’s a team effort. Daughter gets involved here and there, helping me measure the flour, giving the batter a stir, watching with delight as he flips a pancake up in the air and catches it deftly back in the pan. And of course she loves the eating part – with lemon juice and sugar, a traditionalist like me.
This is a better version of breakfast. All joining in. Camaraderie. I realise that in the modern world, where we all have things to do and places to be, we’re not realistically going to achieve this every day. But today’s breakfast was lush. And I hope this encourages us all to make the most of the little things. And to try to do it more often. Probably pancakes every morning would wear a bit thin, though I hope we’re not bored with it by tomorrow as we have some batter left over. But let’s make an effort to turn everyday events into something a little bit special. At least some of the time.

A frustratingly good afternoon

I had the pleasure of visiting the Houses of Parliament yesterday afternoon. We did the children’s “Fire and Freedom” guided tour, which was great. We learned about the Great Fire of London, Guy Fawkes and the gunpowder plot, a fire which burned down most of the old Palace of Westminster in 1834, and the suffragettes. And a bit about the Commons and the Lords, about MPs’ voting rules and trips to the pub. And we got to hear about all of that in the magnificent Parliament buildings, which are full of ornate carvings and decoration, plus some wonderful sculptures and paintings. It was a fantastic experience, enhanced by daughter getting to play the part of Samuel Pepys.
Well that’s the good part covered – so what was frustrating? In order to keep up with the tour there just wasn’t enough time to really appreciate the beauty and grandeur of the buildings. I think that one day I’ll have to go again and do the self guided audio tour so that I take my time and take everything in. Also, the photographer in me was frustrated that there was so many magnificent shots available, except that in most areas photography was not allowed. And of course in the two areas where it was OK to take photos we were ont he tour and time was limited. Ah well, I have my memories and maybe, just maybe, they might take up my suggestion of arranging photographic tours?
Following our tour we made our way across town and I snapped some pleasant pics around Piccadilly and we had a superb dinner to celebrate our anniversary. So the good outweighed the bad at the end of the day.

Hip Hip Hooray for Bunkfest

I had the pleasure of attending Bunkfest at Wallingford recently. For those that don’t know, this is a festival with music, dance, beer, food, stalls, entertainment for children, crafts, and a singing train! What more could you want?
I primarily watched the ever lovely Rose Hips folk bellydance troupe, who always put on a fantastic display full of gorgeous colours, swirling energy and a vibrant sense of fun. Also performing that afternoon were a number of morris dance groups including the dramatic Beltane Border Morris, Dr Turberville’s, Royal Oak Morris and Ellington Morris.
Of course taking photos of dancing isn’t always straightforward. The rapid movement keeps you on your toes and can of course lead to unwanted blur. On the other hand some images should convey a sense of movement and energy. Put the dancers in a crowded street, or an even more crowded pub and things get more interesting. But that’s what makes it fun, and very satisfying when you get a few shots you’re pleased with.