The maths of chocolate fountains
Delicious, obviously, but would you believe they’re full of maths? In my most popular pop-maths talk, we find out how to make predictions for chocolatey flows, and then work out (a) whether we can use other types of chocolate, (b) whether we could make a pioneering ketchup fountain, and (c) why chocolate fountains fall inwards, not directly downwards.
I give talks of various lengths on the maths behind chocolate fountains semi-regularly. I’ve enjoyed talking to all audiences: these have been at large KS4 enrichment days, at the Royal Institution, at academic colloquia, and for a more pop-science adult audience at Science Showoff. (Featuring: what makes a man visit the Windows XP hill?)
Although adapted to fit the audience, everything I present here comes from my master’s project, which was published in a research journal in 2015, so it’s genuine applied maths research! And I always bring the fountain to every talk. Topics brought in include:
- good and bad models for everyday things (and how to tell between them),
- how mayonnaise and cornflour paste react in opposite ways when hit,
- the link between these liquids and the graphs of $y = x^n$ for different $n$,
- why teapots drip backwards (and how we could fix this).
The chocolate fountain project has been featured in The Washington Post, the Daily Mail and the Smithsonian Institution (among others). I spoke about it on the radio to BNR News Radio in the Netherlands, and back home to Heart Breakfast with Ed & Rachel. I was even lucky enough to present to Parliament in 2015.
The maths of music theory
I gave a talk to the UCL Undergraduate Maths Colloquium in February 2011 on an introduction to Music Theory for mathematicians. I provide some notes that I compiled my slides from, although they differ quite heavily from the content and style of my talk: there’s a lot more mathematics and a lot less bad singing on the keyboard.