Hannah Fry trained as a mathematician, and completed her PhD in fluid dynamics in early 2011. After a brief period working as an aerodynamicist in the motorsport industry, she came back to UCL to work on a major interdisciplinary project in complexity science. The project spans several departments, including Mathematics and the Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis, and focuses on understanding global social systems — such as Trade, Migration and Security. Hannah’s research interests revolve around creating new mathematical techniques to study these systems, with recent work including studies of the London Riots and Consumer Behaviour.
Talk: Is life really that complex?
Recently scientists have begun to appreciate that many of the mechanisms inherent in our social systems have analogies in seemingly unrelated problems. The movement of a crowd, for instance, can be understood using techniques traditionally applied to the flow of a fluid, and the uptake of a new technology can be predicted using knowledge of how disease spreads.
By exploiting these analogies, a new field is emerging at the interface between social sciences and mathematics, the potential of which I hope to illustrate using a mathematical model of the London Riots. Our approach can demonstrate why certain areas of the city were at higher risk than others and help determine which policing strategies may have resulted in a swifter resolution to the unrest.
We will discuss how social modelling can provide a greater understanding of our society, and help design better systems for all: from healthcare to policing and policy.