Mathematician & Broadcaster
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Having studied fluid dynamics and working briefly in F1, Hannah returned to academia and now lectures in the mathematics of cities. She’s also a science broadcaster, bringing numbers and data to life on TV and radio in programmes including The Joy of Data, City in the Sky, and The Curious Cases of Rutherford and Fry. She examines how maths underpins almost everything and the world of data: how it’s gathered, what it can (and can’t) tell us, and when to look more closely at its predictions. Hannah also encouraged the public to download the BBC Pandemic app for her look at how a flu-like disease can spread through day-to-day contact in the prescient BBC programme Contagion!
Mathematician and broadcaster Hannah Fry is a Professor in the Mathematics of Cities at the Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis at UCL where she studies patterns in human behaviour. As well as her academic work she is a regular presenter of science and maths programmes on TV and radio, including Contagion!, a prescient look at how diseases spread and pandemics happen. Hannah is known for her joyful ability to bring mathematical ideas to life for audiences of all interests and abilities.
Having specialised in fluid dynamics, she worked briefly in Formula 1 aerodynamics before returning to academia. At UCL Hannah works with physicists, mathematicians, computer scientists, architects, and geographers to study the patterns in human behaviour. She looks at urban environments and human activity from shopping habits to transport use to riots. These patterns of activity have also been applied to how diseases spread through day-to-day contact. She also considers the maths of the everyday; how numbers and formulae can explain behaviours, predict events, and reveal the truth behind commonly held myths.
Hannah examines the insights data can provide, but also where its limitations are. She looks at how a lack of care in collecting or understanding data can not just embed biases but even amplify them, excluding and discriminating against groups, and having a damaging impact on fairness, diversity, and inclusion. She also considers what data can (and can’t) tell us about ourselves, the trouble with automation, and why there are dangers leaving one side in charge, the mathematics of winning. Furthermore, Hannah speaks about predicting the future and why we need quantitative thinking to know which parts of our future can be forecast.
She also examines how AI is revealing incredible new insights and developing more effective processes and considers its often-overlooked shortcomings and unjustified hype. Looking at the realities of the revolutionary ideas behind AI she considers the controversies, ethical considerations, and scare-stories, as she does in her book Hello World: How to be Human in the Age of the Machine.
On television, Hannah has explored Climate Change By Numbers, and recounted the story of computing pioneer Ada Lovelace in Calculating Ada: The Countess of Computing. She shared a personal video diary of her journey with cervical cancer in Making Sense of Cancer, and explored the statistics of how we diagnose and treat the disease. The documentary series The Secret Genius of Modern Life saw her look at the secrets behind the miraculous technologies of the modern world from bank cards, trainers, electric cars, and fitness trackers. In her Bloomberg series The Future, Hannah questions our collective future and what we want it to look like, with the breakthroughs in science and technology that will transform our lives and society, in a way that happens with us rather than to us.
On radio, Hannah has appeared on Computing Britain, Can Maths Combat Terrorism, and co-hosts (with geneticist Adam Rutherford) Radio 4’s Curious Cases of Rutherford and Fry. She has also guest hosted Have I Got News For You.
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JLA Speakers Breakfast: Hannah Fry
JLA Speakers Breakfast
Hannah fry on avoiding divorce