**Published on** December 11th, 2013 |
*by Stephanie*

# David Shaw

**Position: **Writer – Maths and Stats by Email (CSIRO)

**How do you introduce yourself at parties?**

It really depends on the people – sometimes I’m an editor, sometimes I’m a writer, sometimes I’m a mathematician. The most genuine answer I give is probably ‘ummm, I’m kind of a maths-journalist…’

**Why mathematics?**

I’ve enjoyed maths for as long as I can remember. There’s nothing quite like that ‘Aha!’ moment when you work out a really good question. Plus you don’t have to write essays…

**Do you think that mathematicians deserve the “geek” tag?**

I’m not sure what geek means any more – the word is used in very different ways by different people. If you’re talking about the Steve Urkel / Big Bang Theory kind of ‘geek’ then very few mathematicians I’ve met fit that mould.

**What area of mathematics and why?**

One of the nice things about my job is that I play with a wide range of areas of maths. I cover a lot of statistics, big data, optimisation and historical maths. Once or twice a year, someone attempts a proof of a big theory – the Goldbach conjecture, P versus NP, and I get to read up on what it means, and how they are attacking the problem.

**What has maths done for you lately?**

I just spent three months writing an interactive performance in the UK. The show is made up of lots of tiny games, that take less than a minute to explain, and about the same to play. Having a good grounding in maths meant I could guess how hard a game was likely to be before we tested it – which meant the initial tests went much better than expected.

One particular example was a Yahtzee style dice rolling game. The group was sure that 1,2,3,4,5 and 6,6,6,6,6 were equally likely outcomes on 5 dice, but I was able to explain that the run was far more likely.

**Do you have a favourite application or theory of maths?**

I’ve spent the last few hours folding Dragon curves out of strips of paper. I love how a simple set of rules can create complex, and sometimes beautiful, patterns.[subscribe2]