Thing Explainer

With five of my Yr12 FM gang, into the heart of London for a talk on how to explain science and maths simply to a public audience.

Reddish tinge of sunset


We were listening to Randal Munroe (of xkcd fame), and Marcus du Sautoy.


We looked around at the thousand or so people in the audience. “There is not a single Asian person I can see” exclaimed Ashwin. “They are old and white” said Cody. Very different to Stratford station, where we began our journey.


Some points from the talk:

  • 500 years ago it was possible for one person to hold in their brain almost all of the scientific knowledge we had. Now, no one person could properly explain how an iphone works.
  • Marcus was given “A Mathematician’s Apology” by a maths teacher, gave him the key to a secret magical garden. He writes to show the magical garden to as many people as possible
  • You sometimes use sophisticated language to convince yourself and others that you do in fact deserve to be here, you are clever enough.
  • Marcus used the first few rows of the audience to show Cantor’s diagonal proof – each row was an infinite decimal, each person a digit
  • Humour is a way of connecting speaker/audience (we are the same!) and to diffuse tension
  • Teacher: “What is the biggest number?” Student: “5246?” T: “What about 5247?” S: “Ah, I was so close!”
  • The hardest problem that humans tackle is working out how they come across to other people.
Beautiful room!

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