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Yes maths is important – just ask Dan Brown

Media Release
13 December 2005

Yes maths is important – just ask Dan Brown

In the best seller The Da Vinci Code the protagonist Robert Langdon is introduced to the Fibonacci Sequence or ‘Golden Ratio’ that repeats itself in nature countless times from the concentric circles in sea shells to the disbursement of seeds in a sunflower.

These patterns are just one of the topics that will be covered by Professor James Sneyd in a public lecture this week at The University of Auckland’s Faculty of Science.

Professor Sneyd, an award winning author himself, will also show how mathematics is being applied to things as diverse as helping study the evolution of the AIDS virus to why leopards have their spots and zebras their stripes.

The lecture, titled ‘Mathematics may be the Queen, but Biology is her intimate friend’, will be held at 7pm Thursday 15 December, Lecture Theatre PLT1, Building 303, Science Centre, 38 Princes Street. The lecture is free and open to the public.

“Biology has grown to become one of the most important areas of applied mathematics, in fact it might even be called fashionable,” says Professor Sneyd.

“In this lecture we will go on a short tour of mathematical biology from the historical studies of small pox to the theory of how we hear and the study of evolution. We will learn how mathematics helps answer many of the questions we have about the living world.

“Importantly there won’t be any complex equations during the lecture. The lecture will be less than an hour and all who attend will not only understand it all but be excited by the potential of maths and its partnership with biology.”

The Auckland University’s Institutes of Bioengineering and Bioinformatics and the Department of Mathematics each have research projects underway involving Mathematical Biology.

The current research projects include studying the evolution of the AIDS virus; modelling how the heart works to better understand why it stops working properly in such large numbers of people; and learning more about the cause of asthma and how we can help control it better.

Professor James Sneyd
Professor Sneyd is one of the world’s leading mathematical biologists and was recently elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand. He is best known for his influential research-based text books, Self Organisation in Biological Systems (2001) and Mathematical Physiology (1998), both of which won Best Book awards from the American Association of Publishers.


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