Judy-anne Osborn is a mathematician interested in education, employed as a researcher and lecturer at the University of Newcastle, Australia. Judy-anne did her undergraduate (first class hons) and PhD at the University of Melbourne, where she joined ARC Centre of Excellence “Mathematics and Statistics of Complex Systems”. Dr Osborn then joined the Mathematical Sciences Institute at ANU as a postdoctoral fellow, followed by a stint as a postdoctoral fellow at Newcastle in the University’s Priority Centre CARMA (Computer Assisted Research Mathematics and its Applications) before taking up her present position. Judy-anne has a long-term interest in the notion of mathematics as an exploratory game. This notion influences both her research in combinatorics and her teaching. Dr Osborn has had a number of publications in well-regarded mathematical journals as well as several teaching-related grants, including leading the Newcastle node of a current OLT grant to improve the training of mathematics teachers.
Brad Pitt’s zombie-attack movie “World War Z” may not seem like a natural jumping-off point for a discussion of mathematics or science, but in fact it was my review of that movie in “The Conversation” that led me here.
The Movies and Maths have something in common. Both enable a trait which seems to be more highly developed in humans than in any other species, with profound consequences: the desire and capacity to explore possibility-space.
The same mathematical models can let us playfully explore how an outbreak of zombie-ism might play out, or how an outbreak of an infectious disease like measles would spread, depending, in part, on what choices we make. Where a movie gives us deep insight into one possibility, mathematics enables us to explore, at all once, millions of scenarios, and see where the critical differences lie.