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Maths at EMF camp

Exploring the maths on offer at this year’s UK hacker festival.


Header picture: Simon Arlott, CC-BY-ND 2.0

Recently, I went to a festival. More specifically, I went to Electromagnetic Field (EMF), where I spent three days surrounded by hackers, geeks, scientists, engineers and mathematicians, who had all brought along their coolest toys to show off. In this week’s blog post, I’m going to share my (mostly mathematical) highlights with you.

One of the most interesting talks I went to was given by Henry Segerman, which was about using 3D printed objects to visualise 4D shapes.

If you enjoyed that, Henry has a book coming out in September.

At EMF, the campsite was split into villages—areas where those with a similar interest could camp together. Our village was ‘The Maths Village’, where we ran some mathematical events including a Maths Jam on the Friday evening. Attractions at the maths jam included Henry’s 3D printed shapes…

… and hyperbolic crochet.

There was a small Chalkdust contingent at The Maths Village: Alex Bolton was there and gave a talk on the maths of voting:

Oliver Child, who built a copy of Menace was also there. Sadly, Menace was too large for him to bring, but he still got a mention in my talk.

Another great talk was given by Katie Steckles, which culminated in her spelling out an audience member’s name (“Adam”) by folding paper and making one cut to each piece.

Straight after Katie’s talk, Matthew Ireland gave a very interesting talk about the life and work of Claude Shannon.

Although not about maths, Jos Weyers’ talk on key impressioning deserves a mention here too, as it was probably the talk I enjoyed most (closely followed by Henry’s 4D shapes talk).

If you want to watch more talks from EMF, you can find YouTube links here.

Matthew Scroggs is a PhD student at UCL working on finite and boundary element methods. His website,, is full of maths and now features a video of him completing a level of Pac-Man optimally.
Twitter  @mscroggs    Website    + More articles by Matthew

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