A coffee with... Burgess

Published on February 18th, 2013 | by Stephanie


Rob Burgess

Position: Political Commentator

How do you introduce yourself at parties?
I’m not a mathematician, so I just say I’m a journo … a highly numerate journo.

Do you think that mathematicians deserve the “geek” tag?
Yes. But then geeks have much richer and more enjoyable lives than non-geeks, so let’s all get over that tag.

How do you use maths in your work?
I do a lot of spreadsheet work to try to see where the economy is headed. My favourite trick, though actually just simple arithmetic, is to turn a multi-billion dollar figure into something like “$1.67 per Australian per week”. That’s one way to destroy a few myths about what’s really going on.

What has maths done for you lately?
A basic knowledge of calculus has enabled me to sound knowledgable when discussing economic modelling with a high-profile professor. I think I got away with it.

Do you have a favourite application or theory of maths?
While I don’t apply it myself (way beyond my education), I like complexity theory as applied to economics.  Anything that tempers our rigid view of reality works for me.



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