University of Bath

The maths of life and death

Part of the Minerva Series of Lectures

8 May 20196.00pm
8 May 20197.00pm
Dr Kit Yates
Dr Kit Yates

Every time you look at the world you are building a model. With every new experience these representations of your environment are refined and reconfigured. Each piece of sensory information you perceive makes the model of reality in your head more detailed and complex. The building of mathematical models, designed to capture our complex reality, is the best way we have of making sense of the rules that govern the world around us. The key to exemplifying these rules is to demonstrate their effects on people’s lives: from the extraordinary to the everyday.

This talk, given by Dr Kit Yates, will relate true stories of life-changing events in which the use (or abuse) of mathematics has played a critical role. We will meet athletes banned by faulty tests and patients crippled by faulty genes; innocent victims of miscarriages of justice and the unwitting victims of mathematical bugs. We follow stories of investors who have lost fortunes and parents who have lost children, all because of mathematical misunderstanding. We wrestle with ethical issues from abortion to anti-vaccination and examine pertinent societal issues like medical screening, political referenda, disease prevention and criminal justice, on all of which mathematics has something profound or significant to say.