Mathematics of Planet Earth 2013 bannerOur planet is the setting for dynamic processes of all sorts, including:

  • the geophysical processes in the earth’s mantle
  • the atmospheric and oceanic processes that determine our weather and climates
  • the biological processes involving living species
  • the human processes of finance, agriculture, water, transportation, and energy.

Throughout 2013 scientific institutes and learned societies around the globe will be hosting programmes, workshops and lectures to encourage research in identifying and solving fundamental questions about planet earth and to encourage communication about the challenges facing our planet.

The Royal Society of New Zealand has chosen to theme many of its public programmes in 2013 around the Mathematics of Planet Earth in partnership with a number of organisations including the New Zealand Mathematical Society and the New Zealand Association of Mathematics Teachers.


  • 10×10 Lectures
  • Schools poster competition ‘Mathematics – the language of science, technology and engineering’ 


  • Professor Mark Pagel, University of Reading, UK will visit New Zealand from 11-21 March 2013 speaking on the use of statistics in examining evolutionary processes such as language development.  He is brought to New Zealand courtesy of the Allan Wilson Centre.
  • Terry TaoProfessor Terry Tao, University of California, Los Angeles will visit New Zealand as the 2013 Maclaurin Lecturer, 19-31 August, courtesy of the New Zealand Mathematical Society. He will give talks in Auckland, Hamilton, Dunedin, Christchurch, Palmerston North and Wellington.  Full details of the lecture tour can be found on the New Zealand Mathematical Society website. Listen to his public talk ‘The Cosmic Ladder (MP3, 23.5 MB)‘.
  • Sir John Sulston will visit New Zealand from 7-11 October as the Rutherford Memorial Lecturer, courtesy of the Royal Society of London and the Royal Society of New Zealand.  Awarded a Nobel Laureate in 2002, Sir John Sulston has recently chaired the Royal Society of London’s ‘People and the planet’ working group, investigating the links between global population and consumption.


Radio New Zealand’s science programme Our Changing World will be playing a number of maths-related stories during the year. Also included below are some maths features from past years.

  • Associate Professor Mark McGuinness from Victoria University of Wellington talks about industrial mathematics.

  • University of Canterbury mathematician Alex James explains how maths helps ecologists to better understand complexity.

  • When Auckland City Hospital was experiencing a cancellation rate for cardiac surgery that was approaching 30% the staff decided to ask a statistician Ilze Ziedins for help. 

  • Dillon Mayhew explains what the abstract mathematical construct called a matroid is and why he thinks they are beautiful.

  • Industrial mathematician Graeme Wake is an expert in the maths of spontaneous combustion, and the ‘theory of ignition’.

  • Mathematician James Sneyd on modelling the role of calcium in lung function and saliva secretion.


Other events will be listed throughout the year.  To list an event please email

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