Dr Kit Yates from the Department of Mathematical Sciences sees his first popular science book; “The Maths of Life and Death” published this week.
Published by Quercus, the book takes the reader through an eye-opening explanation of how maths underpins everything we do, from working to communicating to relaxing, and is often a matter of life and death.
Using compelling examples Dr Yates explores the true stories of life-changing events in which the application - or misapplication - of mathematics has played a critical role, from patients crippled by faulty genes and entrepreneurs bankrupted by faulty algorithms to innocent victims of miscarriages of justice. Readers will discover that maths can create loopholes in the law and be the needle that closes them; the technology that saves lives and the cause of mistakes that put them at risk; the outbreak of a deadly disease and the best way to control it.
He also explores how we as individuals can harness the power of maths to our benefit, from using simple rules and tools to help us make better choices – like picking the best seat on a train or the shortest queue - to understanding how to question statistics and avoid having the wool pulled over our eyes.
Dr Yates said: “It’s important to say upfront that The Maths of Life and Death is not a not a maths book. Nor is it a book for mathematicians. There isn’t a single equation in it. The point of the book is not to bring back memories of the school mathematics lessons you might have given up years ago. Quite the opposite. If you’ve ever been disenfranchised and made to feel that you can’t take part in mathematics or aren’t good at it, consider this book an emancipation.
“I’m so excited that the book is finally here and that readers will finally get a chance to be enthused by the book’s compelling stories of the potential pitfalls, the awesome power and the ubiquitous utility of mathematics. It is the best hope we have of answering the most fundamental questions about the enigmas of the cosmos and the mysteries of our own species. It leads us on the myriad paths of our lives and lies in wait, just beyond the veil, to stare back at us as we draw our final breaths.”
Dr Yates is a Senior Lecturer in Mathematical Biology at the University of Bath. His research involves taking real-world phenomena and uncovering the mathematical truths that lie behind them.
He works in applications as diverse as embryonic disease, the patterns on eggshells and the devastating swarming of locust plagues - teasing out the mathematical connections in the process.
A former winner of the University of Bath Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Public Engagement with Research, and recipient of the Faculty of Science Teaching Award, Dr Yates has written about the enjoyment and ubiquity of mathematics for The Guardian, The Times, the i, and others.
He has appeared on the BBC’s Bang Goes The Theory and Watchdog and regularly sets the BBC Radio 4 Today Programme’s “Puzzle for Today”.