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Finding maths in movies – you just need to know where to look!

QUT’s resident pop-culture roboticist Professor Michael Milford (Science and Engineering Centre and Australian Centre for Robotic Vision) joined host Lee Constable for a quick-fire chat about maths in movies, as part of the Fast Five event at the 2018 Family Fun Day. Here’s a recap of their talk…

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Debunking Hollywood myths with maths

Have you ever wondered just how realistic some scenes in Hollywood blockbusters really are? Prof. Milford is a movie reviewer unlike anyone else, regularly debunking motion picture myths or proving plots points using maths! According to Prof. Milford, maths in movies can be educational, interesting, humorous and integral to the plot. Using mathematics, he can determine just how plausible the physics and science behind the scenes actually are.

Take, for instance, the question of whether Bruce Banner’s trousers would actually still fit after he transforms into The Hulk. In the movies, 178cm tall Bruce Banner transforms in to The Hulk, who’s 259cm tall. This means Banner’s height increases by a factor of 1.46 and his waist circumference by about 1.75, meaning his pants would need to stretch by about 75%! According to Prof. Milford, most scientific studies conclude denim jeans stretch up to 34% after a few washes, while pure spandex pants have the ability to stretch more than 100% and still return to their original size. Time to pack away the denim and slip on some spandex, Banner!

Prof. Milford has reviewed some of Hollywood’s highest-grossing films, including Thor: Ragnarok, Terminator 2, Spiderman: Homecoming and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales.

Maths can be fun!

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Prof. Milford is so mad about maths, he’s created Math Thrills, which engages different types of learners through different types of mediums, making maths a part of the everyday. At Fast Five, he talked about his crowd-funded STEM Storybooks, which are a beautifully illustrated collection of stories on topics ranging from statistics to robotics, that introduce key STEM concepts to kids aged 2 – 8 years, such as size, statistics, probability, speed, rates of change, robotics, fractions and more. Prof. Milford has also written the first maths thriller novel for young adults, Code Bravo, which uses narrative to teach important maths concepts.

 Codebreaker

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Finally, to wrap up his talk, Prof. Milford introduced an intriguing ‘crack the code box’, his very own custom mad, 3D-printed nuclear generator prop. The box is used as a tool to teach kids the mathematics behind cracking the code – the numerous combinations and time involved in such an effort. Get the code wrong and the countdown gets faster, guess the correct code to disarm the mock bomb! The audience definitely had some fun testing them out and even managed to crack the code!

About Professor Milford
Professor Michael Milford is a leading robotics researcher conducting interdisciplinary research at the boundary between robotics, neuroscience and computer vision, and a multi-award winning educational entrepreneur. His research models the neural mechanisms in the brain underlying tasks like navigation and perception in order to develop new technologies, with a particular emphasis on challenging application domains where current techniques fail such as all-weather, anytime positioning for autonomous vehicles. He currently holds the position of Professor at QUT, as well as Australian Research Council Future Fellow, Microsoft Research Faculty Fellow and Chief Investigator on the Australian Centre for Robotic Vision.

To find out more about Michael, you can head to his website, Maths Thrills

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