It happens again and again: peaceful protests turn violent, paving stones become missiles, the police respond with truncheons, tear gas and water cannons. People are hurt, sometimes fatally. Hannah Fry is looking for ways to prevent all this – through mathematics.
Needless to say, Hannah Fry is a mathematician. She holds a PhD in fluid-dynamics, has worked in motor sports as an aerodynamicist and now teaches at University College London. Her research focus is on the London riots of 2011. That year the English capital witnessed massive unrest. For several nights, Anarchy in the U.K. became a reality on the streets of major cities, including London, Liverpool and Manchester.
But why were certain areas and neighbourhoods affected by the violence, while others remained completely peaceful? Why does social unrest start in the first place? How does it spread?
As a mathematician, Fry approaches her field of research through the avoidance of speculations and vague explanations and, instead, focuses on hard, science-based facts. With the aid of complex systems theory, she, for example, analyses analogies between the behaviours of “shoppers” and “insurgents”. The results of her research are intended to aid future strategies for police deployments and prevent the eruptive emergence of violent unrest.
Along with analysing urban riots, Hannah Fry is also dedicated to solving other problems. With plenty of humour, an unmistakable British accent and, of course, a good dose of mathematics she uses her YouTube channel to explain why bigger is not necessarily better, how maths saves lives and the differences between geeks and nerds.
Whether maths-geek or maths-phobic – with Hannah Fry it’s a win-win setup! She has the balancing act of explaining complex research, without sounding trivial, down to a tee.
This Session is brought to you with kind support of:
The Year of Science 2014 – the Digital Society. The Digital Society is a Society in change. Digital technologies permeate our daily lives and offer a variety of new possibilities. The Year of Science 2014 – the digital society shows how science and research drives these developments and dedicates itself to the outcomes of the digital revolution.
Photo: Hannah Fry