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Sir Isaac Newton

Isaac Newton Institute for Mathematical Sciences

Mathematics of Planet Earth 2013

From e-finance to ecology, peace-keeping to population dynamics, urban planning to oceanography, materials to medicine, and security to sustainability. Mathematics plays a central role in understanding and anticipating a vast array of human and planetary concerns and in predicting and managing or capitalising on their consequences.

In 2013, mathematical scientists are uniting to tackle these and other global issues in Mathematics of Planet Earth 2013 (MPE2013), a worldwide initiative endorsed by UNESCO. With over 100 partner organisations in more than 30 countries, including mathematical institutes, professional societies, research centres and teachers’ associations, and with launch events in the United States, Canada, Australia and the UK, the goals of MPE2013 are: to formulate the most urgent planetary problems that mathematics can address; to bring together world-class researchers to find solutions to these problems; and to engage the public in a dialogue about the significance of these problems. This will be done via a range of activities including long- and short-term research programmes, workshops, summer schools, exhibitions and public lectures.

Cédric Villani, Fields Medallist and Director of the Institute Henri Poincaré (IHP) in Paris, says: “We think we are in the middle of an economic crisis, but that crisis may be nothing in comparison [with] the ecological crisis that we are, and will be facing. All of mankind’s intellectual resources will be helpful in solving these issues, and that includes mathematical sciences.”

But how can mathematics make a difference? Consider a pandemic. The mathematical modelling of infectious diseases shows that it is not necessary to vaccinate the whole population to eradicate a disease: models can identify the vaccination threshold and the groups to target. Consider now the clouds. Clouds are one of the major contributors to the uncertainty in climate predictions. But mathematicians use advanced geometry to characterise clouds and provide a more quantitative description of their role in the climate system. And what of the ubiquitous satnav? Satellite navigation systems use sophisticated optimisation algorithms to plan the best route and triangulation to determine location.

Whether dealing with the geophysical issues of our earth, the atmospheric issues of our weather, the biological issues of our species, or our everyday human issues, it is mathematics that underpins our understanding and, in turn, our advancement.

MPE2013 related activities at the Isaac Newton Institute for Mathematical Sciences

May - 23 August 2013
Mathematical Modelling and Analysis of Complex Fluids and Active Media in Evolving Domains
15 July - 9 August 2013
Polynomial Optimisation
19 August - 13 September 2013
Infectious Disease Dynamics
27 August - 20 December 2013
Mathematical Challenges in Quantum Information
21 October - 20 December 2013
Mathematics for the Fluid Earth

Details of the different events which are taking place around the world in 2013 can be found on the Mathematics of Planet Earth 2013 website.

The launch event for Mathematics of Planet Earth 2013 took place at the Isaac Newton Institute on Monday 17 December 2012:

Launch event at the Isaac Newton Institute for Mathematical Sciences

The Mathematics of Extreme Climatic Events

From forecasting hurricanes to harnessing wave energy, leading mathematicians, scientists and policy makers will discuss how mathematical models and statistical analysis help us to predict, manage impact, exploit and communicate about nature’s climatic extremes, and how they help Government to anticipate health-related consequences of natural catastrophic events and insurance companies to assess the financial risk of such occurrences.

Date: Monday 17 December, 2012

Time: 2.00 - 6.00pm



  • 2.00pm - 2.05pm   Welcome by Prof John Toland (Director of the Isaac Newton Institute for Mathematical Sciences)
  • 2.05pm - 2.15pm   Introduction by Mr Howard Covington (Chairman of the Isaac Newton Institute for Mathematical Sciences Management Committee)

Session 1: Predicting and Managing Extreme Climatic Events

  • 2.15pm - 2.30pm   Prof Lord Julian Hunt (Emeritus Prof of Climate Modeling, UCL, Hon Prof at DAMTP and a member of the House of Lords)
  • 2.30pm - 3.00pm   Prof Virginia Murray (Head of Extreme Events and Health Protection, HPA)
    Extreme Events and Health Protection: What are the Challenges?
  • 3.00pm - 3.30pm   Dr. Filimon Gournaris (Securis Investments)
    A Financial Perspective of Extreme Climatic Events
  • 3.30pm - 4.00pm   Tea / Coffee

Session 2: Exploiting Climatic Extremes and Communicating Risk and Uncertainty

  • 4.00pm - 4.30pm   Prof Rod Rainey (Head of Technology, Floating Structures, Atkins Oil & Gas)
    Exploiting Wave Energy: Why We Shouldn’t Give Up. Manuscript PDF
  • 4.30pm - 5.00pm   Prof David Spiegelhalter (Winton Professor for the Public Understanding of Risk, University of Cambridge)
    Don't Know, Can't Know: Communicating Risk and Deeper Uncertainty

Panel Session

  • 5.00pm - 5.20pm   Chaired by Prof Lord Julian Hunt.
    With all of the above speakers.

  • 5.20pm - 6.00pm   Wine Reception

Videos and presentations are now available online!

The Isaac Newton Institute for Mathematical Sciences runs scientific programmes varying in length from 4 weeks to 6 months. At any particular time there are typically 2 programmes running, each with up to 20 participants working at the Institute. Shorter workshops, conferences and Satellite Meetings are organised as part of the programmes.

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