I’m an atheist. Now many spiritual people believe that atheists are seldom totally committed, and I’ll admit that I harbour one lingering doubt. It’s the existence of Euler’s equation, e^{i \pi} + 1 = 0.

If god exists, she’s a mathematician who loves simplicity and exquisite beauty. Here is an extraordinarily staightforward identity that connects the fundamental operations (addition, multiplication and equality), the two basic counting numbers (zero and one), the base of natural logarithms (e, also known as Euler’s number), the ratio of the circumference and diameter of a circle (pi), and the imaginary number (i, where i2 = −1). The word awesome is despairingly overhyped today, but this is one equation that more than fully qualifies for its use. It’s akin to throwing your alphabet soup in the air and it landing on the bench to spell out the Gettysburg Address.

20150428_094145Consequently, it was with much pleasure that I opened my author-signed  copy of Birth of a Theorem: A Mathematical Adventure (check this link – a great review) and saw what he’d written alongside his signature. Yes, along with his jottings was a doodled drawing of someone thinking about Euler’s identity – clearly the author is as much in awe of it as many of the rest of us mortals. And note his use of the word ‘love': it reminded me of an inaugural lecture given by a professor of pure mathematics, Rudy Lidl, at my university many decades ago, titled ‘Mathematics: My First Love’.

So it’s with great pleasure that I introduce you to a celebrity in the field of mathematics – Cédric Villani.

Many of you will be aware that there is no Nobel Prize for Mathematics; our best mathematicians receive the Fields Medal, awarded every four years. Just in case you’re wondering, Cédric has a Fields Medal, awarded in 2010, so he is certainly no mathematical slouch.

Already well known in his native France, Cédric is becoming better known in the English-speaking world, and not just for his mathematical skill. He’s a celebrity, and I for one am immensely pleased. He dresses outrageously, is an eccentric and engaging character, and has great presentation skills, making Brian Cox look positively dowdy, shy and introspective. Probably appropriately, he’s been fondly described as the ‘Lady Gaga of French mathematicians‘.

I’ve started the book and thus far love it (there’s that word again). It tells the story of how Cédric came to make his most famous mathematical contribution, concerning the famous Boltzmann Equation. No, you don’t require knowledge of higher mathematics to understand the book – yes, it contains discussions of mathematics, but is essentially a diary of the thought processes of mathematicians.

Alright, I accept that you may not quite share my unbridled enthusiasm, but at least have a look at his recent presentation in the UK:

… and if you liked that , you’ll also enjoy the Q&A:

As the book reviewer from New Scientist noted:

The book opens like a film noir, as Villani sits sprawling in his office with intellectual partner Clément Mouhot. The pair are wrestling with a tricky case – not a murder, but the intricate properties of the Boltzmann equation, a statistical description of how particles in a gas behave.

In a tumble of dialogue they bat about phrases like “modulo minimal regularity bounds” and “Moser-style iteration scheme” – essentially incomprehensible to the average reader, but they sweep you along for the ride.

Initially, it’s a refreshing alternative to most pop-maths books, which understandably make every effort to hold your hand as they guide you through tricky concepts. Instead, Villani pours you inside his mind and swirls you around, leaving you with nothing to hold on to and breathlessly wondering what you’ll encounter next.

Cédric the celebrity – has a nice ring to it.

Back in January I posted about Martin Weller’s great book, The Battle for Open: How openness won and why it doesn’t feel like a victory. Now you can watch Martin talk about the book, along with other issues associated with OER (are you familiar with ‘openwashing’?), in his keynote address to OER15.

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I don’t mention it every year, but it seems time to remind you of the annual Horizon Report, as the 2015 edition is available. As ever, it provides solid and sensible reading concerning:

… the five-year horizon for the impact of emerging technologies in learning communities across the globe. With more than 13 years of research and publications, it can be regarded as the world’s longest-running exploration of emerging technology trends and uptake in education.

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Somewhere in the programme for pretty-well every workshop I’ve run in the past decade and more has been an activity for participants on analysing educational technologies, using Tony Bates’ SECTIONS model. It’s an update on his previous ACTIONS model, which I unsurprisingly also used in the dim and distant past. The model is useful, it engages participants and leads to fruitful discussion and debate.

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The overwhelmingly positive review I browsed filled me with eager anticipation for Lawrence Osborne’s The Ballad of a Small Player. An element of the attraction was that it is set in Macau and Hong Kong, a city I lived in for 15 years.

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Received an email this week from Richard Madison, Marketing Executive of the Brighton School of Business & Management (you’ll find his courses introduced via this link) concerning a nice infographic he’s produced: ‘A comprehensive guide to choosing an online course’.

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The results are in. Let us congratulate the writing professionals. Of the eight job categories on Elance, an online workplace for freelancers, workers in the writing and translation division had the lowest number of mistakes in their profiles.

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Martin Weller makes me tired. He does so much, writes so well, is an encouraging and supporting professional colleague (even at a distance – I’ve never met him in person), and runs great distances (1008 miles in 2014). We knew he’d been writing a new book, as he’d been providing updates and ideas on his blog site, but it’s still exciting to see the finished product: The Battle for Open: How openness won and why it doesn’t feel like a victory.

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It’s well worth reading and contemplating: the UKOU’s third in the annual series of reports, Innovating Pedagogy, 2014 edition. The pattern continues: useful short summaries of 10 emerging innovations that may have at least significant, if not profound, effects on teaching, learning and assessment. And as with the first two reports, some of the innovations I was familiar with (Flipped classroom), or at least heard of, while others are new to me (Bricolage).

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I bought a iPad. About time, you say, and you’re probably right. My grandson Alex has one, and he’s pretty adept with it. Pororo (you know, the little penguin) is a favourite, though he also has a decent swag of games and other apps he delights in.

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