NUMBER CITY

September 7 → 10:00 am4:00 pm

All-weather pitch, Pickaquoy Centre, Kirkwall

Help us create a mathematical city in a day!

A team of mathematicians plan to construct a cardboard city, incorporating the beauty of one of the most fundamental structures in the world of mathematics – prime numbers.

You’ll be able to create your own ‘number buildings’ to become part of the city, laid out on a number grid on the all-weather pitch at Pickaquoy. The building materials are cardboard boxes – a lot of them!

It’s based on the way that any number can be broken down into a product of prime numbers – for instance 6 = 2 x 3, with 2 and 3 both prime numbers that can’t be broken down further. You can represent it with a box on row 2 on a grid, and a further box next to it on row 3. For 12 (= 2 x 2 x 3), you need to stack a second box in row 2. For the prime number 7, there’s a single box in row 7.

There’s a visualisation here. We hope to go all the way up to 128!

The idea was developed by Paul Stephenson, who will be there to speak to participants. A few years ago, he brought the Magical Mathworks Travelling Circus to the Festival. This time he’s joined by maths communicators Matt Parker, Katie Steckles and Ayliean MacDonald, as well as science artist Hana Ayoob, who’s managing the project.

Number City has been made possible through the MEGA Grant, a scheme for large-scale activities bringing mathematics to public view, coordinated by Talking Maths in Public, the UK’s network for maths communicators.

We need a lot of people to come and visit our city, and to create and personalise number-themed boxes to form part of the installation. Admission is free, and everyone is welcome.

There are of course, so many things that could go wrong – not least the Orkney weather! – and you may wonder how all the boxes (and bricks to weight them down) will come together, but assistance is being kindly provided by the Robertson Facilities Management, part of the Robertson Group.

Before and after the event, there will also be the opportunity to visit the Family Day indoors in the Pickaquoy Centre arena, where we’ll have some number-related activities to continue exploring some of the mathematical ideas depicted by Number City.

The visit of Hana Ayoob and Katie Steckles is part of the Festival package of maths events funded by the International Centre for Mathematical Sciences in Edinburgh.

FAMILY DAY
THE BTSISI’ AND THE SEA

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