Cultural markers in the East of England

Month: August 2014

Essex at War

Chelmsford Remembers Banner2 image

Essex County Council has arranged a weekend of events for Saturday 13th and Sunday 14th September to commemorate the outbreak of the First World War.

On the Sunday between 10.00 and 16.00 there will be enactments and exhibitions at Hylands Park in Chelmsford.

There will be a conference on the Sunday focused on the impact of war on Essex held in Hylands House lasting from 10.30 until 15.00, Paul Rusiecki, author of The Impact of Catastrophe: The People of Essex And The First World War will be the opening speaker and Malcolm Noble RSA Regional Chair, conference chairman.

The Fellow led Chelmsford Remembers project team will be present in Hylands House.

They will explain to Chelmsford residents and other attendees how the project will unfold over the next two years and the ways in which the general public can contribute. Fellows living anywhere in Essex will be particularly welcome. If you are able to join us even for a short time, please introduce yourself to members of the team.

The team will include Frederick Slater, Project Co-ordinator, Annabel Brown FRSA, from the Young Explorers Group, Mick McDonagh FRSA, Manager of the High Chelmer Shopping Centre, Andrew Begent, Manager of the City War Memorial Website, plus representatives from the Marconi Heritage Group and the Chelmsford Civic Society.

Chelmsford Remembers is a Heritage Lottery Fund project that will tell the story of Chelmsford during the First World War. It is a Chelmsford Civic Society project: partners being Essex Record Office, the RSA supported Changing Chelmsford Ideas Hub, the High Chelmer Shopping Centre and the Essex Chronicle.

Chelmsford city centre display

Shopping Centre display…August 2014

The photograph shows the projects launch at the High Chelmer Shopping Centre for the 4th August centenary date.
Any queries to Malcolm Noble Project Director at




Winning the Fields Medal

 The author of this article has a daughter, who at sixteen years of age, declared that her life would be over when she was thirty. This is as painful to write now, as a it was to listen to all those years ago. She feels differently now.


John Charles Fields FRS, FRSC was born in Canada in 1863 and created the Fields Medal to honour contributions to mathematics, achieved by those in the field who are under forty years of age. ( icon-globe Explore Fields life on Wikipedia here…)

Awarded every four years at the International Congress of Mathematicians, this age restriction has meant that some very prestigious mathematicians have missed being recipients of the medal because their greatest achievements came later in life.

Fields intended the medal to be a spur to young minds, to create a potentiality in mathematics that would drive the young mathematician to pursue even more stratospheric and interesting goals in their discipline in later life.

2014 has been a red letter year for the Fields Medal. Awarded for the first time to a woman and to a mathematician from South America.

Now that emerging economies and a crack in the gender imbalance of the awards has been achieved, lets hope that this fracture continues to widen and that female mathematicians and great analytical thinkers from other previously unrepresented countries, of both genders, continue to honour their academies and pursue the medal.

Winners this year…

Discover Maryam's work on Wikipedia here...Maryam Mirzakhani…

an Iranian mathematician and the first female recipient, was awarded the Fields Medal for her outstanding contributions to the dynamics and geometry of Riemann surfaces and their moduli spaces.

“Maryam Mirzakhani has made stunning advances in the theory of Riemann surfaces and their moduli spaces, and led the way to new frontiers in this area. Her insights have integrated methods from diverse fields, such as algebraic geometry, topology and probability theory.

In hyperbolic geometry, Mirzakhani established asymptotic formulas and statistics for the number of simple closed geodesics on a Riemann surface of genus g. She next used these results to give a new and completely unexpected proof of Witten’s conjecture, a formula for characteristic classes for the moduli spaces of Riemann surfaces with marked points”.

See the CV of this mathematician here...pdf fileArtur Avila…

from Brazil, was awarded a Fields Medal for his profound contributions to dynamical systems theory, which have changed the face of the field, using the powerful idea of renormalization as a unifying principle.

“Avila leads and shapes the field of dynamical systems. With his collaborators, he has made essential progress in many areas, including real and complex one-dimensional dynamics, spectral theory of the one-frequency Schrodinger operator, flat billiards and partially hyperbolic dynamics.

Avila’s work on real one-dimensional dynamics brought completion to the subject, with full understanding of the probabilistic point of view, accompanied by a complete renormalization theory. His work in complex dynamics led to a thorough understanding of the fractal geometry of Feigenbaum Julia sets“.

Discover this Professor at Princeton on-line here...Manjul Bhargava…

was awarded a Fields Medal for developing powerful new methods in the geometry of numbers, which he applied to count rings of small rank and to bound the average rank of elliptic curves.

“Bhargava’s thesis provided a reformulation of Gauss’s law for the composition of two binary quadratic forms. He showed that the orbits of the group SL(2, Z)3 on the tensor product of three copies of the standard integral representation correspond to quadratic rings (rings of rank 2 over Z) together with three ideal classes whose product is trivial.

This recovers Gauss’s composition law in an original and computationally effective manner. He then studied orbits in more complicated integral representations, which correspond to cubic, quartic, and quintic rings, and counted the number of such rings with bounded discriminant”.

See the CV of this Regus Professor of Mathematics at Warwick here...Martin Hairer…

was awarded a Fields Medal for his outstanding contributions to the theory of stochastic partial differential equations, and in particular for the creation of a theory of regularity structures for such equations.

“A mathematical problem that is important throughout science is to understand the influence of noise on differential equations, and on the long time behavior of the solutions. This problem was solved for ordinary differential equations by Ito in the 1940s. For partial differential equations, a comprehensive theory has proved to be more elusive, and only particular cases (linear equations, tame nonlinearities, etc.) had been treated satisfactorily.

Hairer’s work addresses two central aspects of the theory. Together with Mattingly he employed the Malliavin calculus along with new methods to establish the ergodicity of the two-dimensional stochastic Navier-Stokes equation”.

If you are reading this on the top of a Clapham omnibus on your mobile phone, then some of the content may seem a bit esoteric, if you are disengaged from maths as a subject. If you are a young woman with an interest in number, don’t you dare give up by the age of thirty…Go get that medal, girrrl.


Supporting children in Cambridge

Cambridge Education Initiative


A group of Cambridge Fellows is developing an initiative to improve educational outcomes for young people in the City’s deprived areas.

Although, overall, Cambridge is one of the UK’s – and the world’s – most successful cities, it has pockets of deprivation and the educational performance of some of its schools is below the national average. Children who are eligible for free school meals and who have special needs or other challenges, including looked after children and young carers, are at the highest risk of underachieving.

We have been talking to Council officers and plan to meet Headteachers in the autumn term. The emerging features of our initiative are

  • A place in Cambridge where deprivation is accompanied by underachievement. Arbury meets these criteria.
  • A group of RSA fellows prepared to commit time to a targeted intervention to raise achievement, working with the local community and voluntary organisations
  • Alignment with Council priorities
  • Developed by listening to head teachers, young people, the local community/ voluntary organisations
  • Time limited
  • Replicable

We would welcome contributions from other Fellows.

If you live in the Cambridge area, you are very welcome to join our group. Or if elsewhere, please share your ideas and experience.

emailIcon4 Contact   Sam Weller:; or Jo Durning:


Beginnings and endings – visualised…

‘Each of us narrates our lives as it suits us…’ says Elena Ferrante in her novel Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay. it is possible to recognise the great truth in this reflection. We strive to become what it is we want to be, even sometimes presenting a face to the world that we do not, in truth, cleave to inside us.

Now technology can map our journey from beginning to end. The humble laptop or mobile device can show this life track to the casual visitor. The wonder of the novel is it’s ability to draw us into the individual life, to be able to join the sole reflection of the journey.

The visual displayed below shows the power of aggregation. Making moving pictures of the lives of many. From their birth to the place of their death. In the aggregation comes another story.

It is an informative, broad brush canvas about the creation of communities, cities and centres of culture. It is also, to our mind, both art and science.

See the movie on YouTube You can see the original film on YouTube here…

Researchers at The University of Texas, Dallas have tracked the beginning and end of life of notable figures in history from 600BC to the present day.

The database of notables was drawn from Freebase, a Google owned data service, and the skills and enterprise of the individuals is seen as a proxy for the spread of culture across the globe.

It is a ‘western’ view of cultural dissemination. It omits much influence drawn from the movement of Asian and African peoples through time. One of the most stunning sequences in the film is the movement of people from the east coast of the USA to the west.

It does visualise the rising importance of the West Coast, particularly in the Twentieth Century. Showing how inevitable the collapse of Native American culture had become.

On balance, a great presentation that shows the cultural spread of European ideas, over space and time.

Useful links:

interneticon You can find a thoughtful reflection on the novel by Elena Ferranti here. It is written by Rohan Maitzen.

interneticon The original research was featured in the journal Nature: see Schich, M. et al. Science 345, 558–562 (2014).

interneticon  Freebase data is available for use under open license. Explore the contents here, you can see how to use the data more explicitly here.



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