In Februaury 2011 the AMSI Lecturer, Professor Darren Crowdy, completed a lecture tour around Australia, visiting 9 universities and giving 8 lectures.
Crowdy is recognized as one of the world's leading experts in applying the theory of complex, or imaginary, numbers to solving real-world problems. He is an Advanced Fellow of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and holds a Chair in Applied Mathematics at Imperial College London.
On 16 February Crowdy gave an AMSI public lecture at the University of Melbourne ironically titled “A Complex Life “. According to Crowdy life is made easier by thinking about complex numbers, and solutions to real scientific problems can be obtained more easily by introducing imaginary concepts.
He explained: "Philip Pullman wrote in his novel, The Golden Compass: 'Think of Adam and Eve like an imaginary number, like the square root of minus one: you can never see any concrete proof that it exists, but if you include it in your equations, you can calculate all manner of things that couldn't be imagined without it.'
Imaginary, or complex, numbers have long fascinated not just mathematicians but the public at large; it is bemusing and intriguing that an 'imagined' abstraction can have real-life utility."
During the lecture he identified a building block (the prime function) which is useful in diverse applications, but has previously gone unnoticed because of its perceived simplicity.
Crowdy's lecture slides are also available.