About Jonathan Shock

I'm a lecturer at the University of Cape Town in the department of Mathematics and Applied Mathematics. I teach mathematics both at undergraduate and at honours levels and my research interests lie in the intersection of applied mathematics and many other areas of science, from biology and neuroscience to fundamental particle physics and psychology.

The Fundamental Theorem of Calculus, part 1 (part i)

We’ve seen some intriguing things in this course so far, and we’ve developed some clever tricks, from how to find the gradient of just about any function we can throw at you, to proving statements to be true for an infinite number of cases.

To some extent, this is what we have looked at so far (at least in terms of calculus, and building up to calculus):

Screen Shot 2019-07-09 at 16.06.58

However, we’re about to see some magic. We’re about to see the most important thing yet on this course, and indeed one of the most important moments in all of mathematical history.

We are going to see…actually, we are going to prove, that there is a relationship between rates of change and the area under a graph. This doesn’t sound that amazing, but its consequences have essentially allowed for the development of much of modern mathematics over the last 350 years.

The link that we are going to prove will allow us to find the area under graphs of functions for which taking the Riemann sum would be really hard.…

By | July 9th, 2019|Courses, First year, MAM1000, Uncategorized, Undergraduate|1 Comment

Deborah Kent (Drake University) Omar Khayyam’s Geometrical Solution of the Cubic: An Example of Using History in the Teaching of Mathematics

Second talk at the Diversifying the curriculum conference in Oxford.

The following was taken down live, and as such there may be mistakes and misquotes. It is mostly a way for me to keep notes and to share useful resources and thoughts with others. As such, nothing should be used to quote the speaker from this article

From https://www.drake.edu/math/faculty/deborahkent/

From https://www.drake.edu/math/faculty/deborahkent/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to generate interesting conversations with students surrounding mathematical diversity.

Historical figures (From wikipedia):

Omar Khayyam 18 May 1048 – 4 December 1131) was a Persian mathematician, astronomer, and poet. He was born in Nishapur, in northeastern Iran, and spent most of his life near the court of the Karakhanid and Seljuq rulers in the period which witnessed the First Crusade.

As a mathematician, he is most notable for his work on the classification and solution of cubic equations, where he provided geometric solutions by the intersection of conics.

June Barrow-Green (The Open University) Towards a diversity resource for undergraduate mathematics

First talk at the Diversifying the curriculum conference in Oxford.

The following was taken down live, and as such there may be mistakes and misquotes. It is mostly a way for me to keep notes and to share useful resources and thoughts with others. As such, nothing should be used to quote the speaker from this article

from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/June_Barrow-Green

from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/June_Barrow-Green

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When reading through the Open University’s textbook “Pure Mathematics M208”, in the historical margin notes, the only female mathematician was Emmy Noether. The vast majority of characters were white European men.

The question is how do we create a resource which can tackle issues of diversity in mathematics? This is a recent project begun by June Barrow Green.

It is important to avoid tokenism when thinking about diversity.

Athena Swan – ECU Gender charter – a very useful resource for statistics about women in STEM

What do we mean by diversity: Ethnicity, gender, culture/ Images of mathematicians, who are the students?…

By | June 18th, 2019|Conference, Diversifying the curriculum|0 Comments

Relativity, The Special and General Theory, 100th anniversary edition – by Albert Einstein

NB. I was sent this book as a review copy.

In 1917, two years after publishing his work on The General Theory of Relativity, Einstein published a popular science account of both The Special, and General Theories of relativity. It is with some embarrassment that I have to admit that I’d never read this before, despite taking a number of undergraduate and postgraduate courses in relativity. Einstein understood the importance that his results had on our understanding of the universe, but also that the profundity of them could not truly be grasped by the general public, despite the headlines which covered many newspapers around the world on his results, without a popular exposition. 1917 was the publication of the first edition of this explication, but he continued to update them up until 1954. This allowed him to extend the theoretical discussion with the experimental verifications and discoveries which occurred over the next decades, including that of the expanding cosmology, spearheaded by Hubble’s observations.…

By | April 19th, 2019|Book reviews, Reviews|0 Comments

Data Visualization, a practical introduction – by Kieran Healy, a review

NB. I was sent this book as a review copy.

I’m not an expert on the R programming language, but I have dabbled, which meant that while this book is perhaps aimed at slightly more advanced users (I’ve used it a half a dozen times for Coursera courses), I had enough to appreciate the value of this really lovely resource.

The book can be seen, I think, in two ways. One of the ways, which is the one which most interests me, is in explaining what it is that makes good data visualization captivating, clear and unambiguous. Interleaved in these ideas of aesthetics are the precisel methods to go about making such visualizations using the ggplot package in R.

The other way to look at the book is as a way to really get to grips with the advanced features of the ggplot package, which is taught via interesting examples of data visualization.…

By | March 27th, 2019|Book reviews, Reviews|0 Comments

All you’ve ever wanted to know about absolute values (and weren’t afraid to ask)

I’ve been getting a lot of questions about absolute values, and so I thought I would try and clarify things here as much as possible. I’ll give some basic definitions and intuition, and then go through some examples, from easier to harder.

The absolute value function is just….a function. You give it a number, and it returns a number. In the same way that f(x)=x^2 is a function. You give it a number and it returns that number multiplied by itself. So the absolute value function, which we write as f(x)=|x| takes a number and returns the same number if the number was positive, and the negative of the number if it was negative, thus returning always a positive number.

We can think of this as the function “how far away from the point 0 (the origin) on the real number line is x?”. It doesn’t care about what direction it is, only how far away it is.…

By | February 22nd, 2019|Courses, First year, MAM1000, Uncategorized, Undergraduate|1 Comment

How to Fall Slower Than Gravity And Other Everyday (and Not So Everyday) Uses of Mathematics and Physical Reasoning – by Paul J. Nahin, a review

NB. I was sent this book as a review copy.

This book is without a doubt the most enjoyable, stimulating book of mathematical physics (and occasionally more pure branches of maths) puzzles that I have ever read. It’s essentially a series of cleverly, and occasionally fiendishly put-together mathematics and physics challenge questions, each of which gets you thinking in a new and fascinating way.

The level of mathematics needed is generally only up to relatively basic calculus, though there is the occasional diversion into a slightly more complex area, though anyone with basic first year university mathematics, or even a keen high school student who has done a little reading ahead, would be able to get a lot from the questions.

I found that there were a number of ways of going through the questions. Some of them are enjoyable to read, and simply ponder. For me, occasionally figuring out what should be done, without writing anything down, was enough to be pretty confident that I saw the ingenuity in the puzzle and the solution and I was happy to leave it at that.…

By | January 10th, 2019|Book reviews, Reviews, Uncategorized|1 Comment

Millions, Billions, Zillions – Defending Yourself in a World of Too Many Numbers – by Brian W. Kernighan, a review

NB. I was sent this book as a review copy.

I have to admit that I was skeptical about this book when I first saw it, and even on browsing through it became more so (read on for the but…). I count myself as a highly numerate person who has a reasonable awareness of the world of numbers around me and I thought that the book probably wouldn’t help me to navigate through the world that I already feel comfortable in.

The book is essentially a series of short chapters which discuss some of the ways that numbers are used, misused and mistakenly used in the media, from errors in units, to orders of magnitude, to the ways that graphs can misrepresent data either intentionally or unintentionally to the improbable precision so often used online and in print. Each chapter uses news headlines and quotes to highlight how such mistakes come about and the examples are extremely clear.…

By | December 13th, 2018|Book reviews, Reviews|2 Comments

The Mathematics of Secrets – by Joshua Holden, a review

NB. I was sent this book as a review copy.

This is an extremely clearly, well-written book covering a lot of ground in the mathematics of cyphers. It starts from the very basics with simple transposition cyphers and goes all the way through to elliptic cyphers, public key cryptography and quantum cryptography. Each section gives detailed examples where you can follow precisely the mathematics of what underlies the encryption. Indeed the mathematics is non-trivial in a fair number of places, but it is always explained well, and I think that anyone with a first year university level of mathematics should be able to understand the bulk of it. I think that if you were to come at this book with a high-school level of mathematics, there would be some aspects which would be pretty hard work, but with some persistence, even those would be understandable, and perhaps the breakthroughs in understanding would feel like a great (though doable) achievement for the maths enthusiast.…

By | November 20th, 2018|Book reviews, Reviews|0 Comments

Taking a pipe round a corner corridor optimisation question

You have a corridor which has an L-shape in it. The corridor looks like this:

cor

where a and b are the widths of the sections of the corridor. The question is to find the longest pipe that can be carried down this corridor. The word pipe here just means something long and with essentially 0 thickness. There is a huge simplification which is being assumed here, which is that the corridor is only 2 dimensional. Of course in a 3 dimensional corridor we have a lot more room to manoeuvre.

Let’s think about a pipe going round the corner. The longest pipe that can go through is the length of the shortest gap that it has to go through. So let’s think of a pipe at a particular angle with respect to the corner:

cor2

The pipe here is the blue line and \theta is the angle that it makes with respect to the corner.…

By | October 24th, 2018|Courses, First year, MAM1000, Undergraduate|3 Comments