Entrance hall of the ICMSFuture Cities: do they all add up?

The cities of the future are being created now and mathematics has a big role to play in their design.   Come along to the Edinburgh International Science Festival on 3 April to discuss just how maths is helping to shape the our living spaces, both physical and virtual. Under the chairmanship of Professor Chris Budd OBE, Univerity of Bath, we have brought together a panel of expert speakers for you to quiz. Below you'll find short descriptions of their presentations and you can book tickets via the link on the right.


When I say 'City', you say... What?

Dr Clémentine Cottineau, Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis, University College London

To us modern observers, cities are so ubiquitous that we often forget to specify what we actually mean by 'city'. Cities have existed continuously for centuries and the same word refers equally to walled pedestrian municipalities of the Middle Ages and to city-regions connected by high speed transportation nowadays. Similarly, aggregates of thousands of people call themselves cities, and so do aggregates of millions. This is probably part of why cities are so fascinating! But if all gatherings of diverse people in a limited space are urban, are all 'cities' homogenous and comparable spaces? Does the scale and location of such gatherings matter? Can quantified methods help us answer these questions, by detecting for example regular relationships between social, physical and scalar features of urban spaces? We investigate size inequality together with the internal composition of cities by looking at urban scaling properties for cities defined in thousands of different ways. We take a closer look at economic and infrastructural performance which might be key indicators for future cities. We emphasise the existence of some mathematical regularities in cities' composition which hold over a large span of urban definitions but also identify indicators for which the concept of city is too broad: in those cases, units of lower scales and their connexions are more relevant to study and understand the challenges of wealth production, infrastructure provision and inequality.


How mathematically similar are cities?

Prof Peter Grindrod CBE, Mathematical Institute, University of Oxford

Cities all look the same on paper - they have traffic networks, services networks, supply networks, with people doing similar things. On the face of it they just differ by size. We address two simple questions. 1. If it is all about size then why do properties like criminal activity or economic activity scale like scaling laws (generalising power laws)? How can we know that without even measuring anything? And what type of properties will exhibit any such scaling law behaviour? 2. Since UK cities may differ in their social structures and connectedness, when should and should not we expect to transfer experiences about social phenomena (and interventions) from one city to another? We shall show how some pairs of cities are very different from a social perspective using data from social media. We shall take a hard look at social-Edinburgh in the process.


From Patterns to Predictions.

Prof Des Higham, Department of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Strathclyde

Data-driven research is great. We can analyse, summarize and visualize the data, and find patterns that we didn't know were there. But I want to focus on what I would call "data-led" research, where the maths comes first and the data then leads us to insights, conclusions and predictions. I will talk about some success stories and some challenges in the search for "laws of motion" concerning life in the city. 


Networks & Cities

Dr Nick McCullen, Dept of Architecture and Civil Engineering, University of Bath

Cities are made up of layers of interconnected networks, which are a neat mathematical way of representing the interactions between individual components and how they influence and affect each other. This idea is not new, with Leonhard Euler solving the problem of the Seven Bridges of Königsberg using network (graph) theory in 1736. Network problems also arise in modern cities, with the so-called Braess paradox confounding planners who try to build new roads to relieve congestion. Spatial analysis using mathematical properties of road networks, amongst other things, can also be used to help design more optimal transport infrastructure and urban layouts. In addition, network science can be applied to more than just physical infrastructures such as road networks, communications networks or power-grids, as it can also be used to mathematically formalise the interactions between individuals in a social system. An example is the uptake of new innovations such as renewable technologies, mediated by recommendations of friends and colleagues in people's social networks. Understanding the importance of the structure of these networks could help policy-makers looking for the most cost effective strategies to encourage the adoption of these innovations. In this talk I will present a few of these ideas and discuss how the mathematics of networks might be used to help planners and policy-makers design better city strategies for the future. 


What will our buildings look like and how will they be built?

Dr Paul Shepherd, Dept of Architecture and Civil Engineering, University of Bath

We need cities that can house our ever-increasing population, keep us safe and warm (or cool), and withstand hurricanes, earthquakes and floods. And since our construction industry has the ability to influence nearly 50% of the UK’s CO2 emissions, we need to design our buildings efficiently, which means being confident they will meet our needs before work starts on-site. Computing power, embedded sensors, virtual reality and 3D printing are already affecting our lives in many interesting ways. This talk will give an insight into how these technologies will help shape the buildings of tomorrow. And of course, how mathematics plays a fundamental role in making sure our future cities are fit for purpose.

Science Festival Logo